Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Tate’s Gallery of Lost Art

by Zoya Mirzaghitova

With the emergence of experimental and innovative ways to exhibit art, the internet has seen its fair share of exhibitions. Websites such as the Google Art Project, ARTstor, gallery websites and other blog or tumblr driven collections of images have filled the internet with opportunities to see works from all over the world. Although many would agree that an old fashioned visit to the gallery beats looking at an image on your screen, no matter the resolution. Despite the various new possibilities of the online medium, these collections have tried their best to stick to the traditional art-on-the-white-wall exhibition method. Online exhibits have yet to offer anything innovative—until now.

A year ago the Tate opened an online exhibition called the Gallery of Lost Art and it knocked my socks off. It triumphed over the conventional internet collection of images in two major respects: firstly, it dealt with artworks that are more appropriate for an online exhibition then a physical one, and secondly it acknowledged that the art is not on a wall, but in a virtual environment where anything is possible. This exhibition collected art in the 20th century which has been somehow lost—whether stolen, destroyed or otherwise not present in its physical form—and assesses these works’ role and significance in art history.

The homepage of the website offers a bird’s eye view on a warehouse floor where visitors can pan to see tables that are set up with documents, photos, laptops and models. There are people around too, they are captured walking around, working and talking. The floor is marked with taped down letters of categories such as lost, damaged, rejected, and the tables with the appropriate objects are grouped around these headings. Each table is dedicated to one work, every object and document on those tables is a clickable page which gives you information about the given artwork. There are articles, essays, photos and videos available as well as short audio files accompanying each category. The Gallery of Lost Art truly utilizes the multifaceted and flexible nature of the internet and creates a very original virtual environment that is tailored to the needs of the exhibition.

It is also a very effective way to communicate information. While many would never pick up a book about lost art, or flip through and put it away, this website compels you to find every clickable section and see what is contained within. With the information separated into such manageable chunks, this exhibition is much more approachable yet leaves the visitor with a considerable amount of knowledge. I have never learned as much as I did at the Lost Gallery of Art in a simple visit to the gallery.

That said, as much as I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, I still don’t have a clear idea of how lost art shaped modern art history, which is something they mention visitors would discover after exploring the works. They mention how each work is significant but most of that significance comes from other aesthetic or theoretical features, not the fact that the work is lost. I would appreciate a final, concluding short essay on the subject, but that is just the art history student in me talking.

The Gallery of Lost art will be lost forever on July 3rd 2013 at 5 pm. Until then, explore it here: http://galleryoflostart.com/

 

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