Since starting a year ago, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has made 400,000 of its images free to download and remix.
The project immediately empowered the likes of software developer and designer Simone Seagle. She downloaded a 1920s print from abstract Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky called Violett. Said Seagle:
Generally you can’t be in a mad mood looking at his work, and it’s a blast to cut up and play with in Photoshop. I picked the print called Violett, because it has fun colors and good shapes to work with.
Everything is a remix
It was Pablo Picasso who once said “great artists steal.” He took inspiration from his scenius and mixed it into his own original work. So it is no surprise that third most visited in the world wants to be part of the creative dialogue. The museum’s chief digital officer Loic Tallon told Quartz:
“If we could preserve the art world in a nice old pickle jar, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I genuinely believe that for the museum to maintain its relevance, we have to participate in that conversations.”
The internet is the world’s largest copy-paste machine. Giving the public unfettered access to rework old masterpieces will bring visibility to obscure pieces while also fueling new interpretations. With time, reworks will birth their own stems for future creators to build on top of.
Art makes sense of and confounds everyday objects. The dislocation between reality and artist interpretation brings interestingness to a work.
The viewer chews on a piece, trying to get into an artist’s mind that’s still evolving and exploring different ways. Both maker and fan dig through their inner space to tie their thoughts for an object together.
What starts out as a personal project gets validated as a social one. Art is a chance to be a little more understood. But it is not finite; rather it’s a perpetual experiment in altering the tones.
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“The social scientists are right to say that we should be a little sceptical of greatness, and that we should always look in the next room. Great art and mediocrity can get confused, even by experts. But that’s why we need to see, and read, as much as we can. The more we’re exposed to the good and the bad, the better we are at telling the difference. The eclecticists have it.”
The Mona Lisa was an obscure piece of art before it was stolen. It benefitted from the “cumulative advantage” of being popular. So is it actually any good? I guess it depends on how susceptible you are to popularity and how well you understand art.