Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Art for Webs Sake

Michelangelo's David wasn't staring over our back and Da Vinci's Mona Lisa wasn't staring us down, but we could access them virtually at any moment if we wanted, and have them greet us each time we fire up our browser.

The granddaddy of museums has now entered cyberspace. Chad Gallant, VP of Icon-Nicholson explained the detailed beauty and exquisite depth of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's web site during a presentation and launch party on Tuesday, January 25 in the Douglas Dillon boardroom. Designed and developed by Icon-Nicholson, with digital artist Jason Wurtzel at the helm of the design team. An assortment of new media aficionados came to see the site launch, snacked on a cornucopia of hors d'oeuvres and agreed this was a nice change from the Tribeca loft parties.

Visitors are greeted with a new splash page every day of one of the 3,000 high-quality images of artwork online, out of a collection of 2 million, chosen by each art division committee. The museum isn't afraid of massive downloads of the images they won't really be that clear. There's a strong search engine and the site's navigation is all interwoven so that people can explore and learn.

Setting standards for museum Web sites, this site offers customization on the museum and the user side. For instance, each department can update their section online with web-based tools.  Each area of art interests (African art, for instance) is linked to African items in the gift shop. There are strong personalization features too. Once you sign up, you can personalize your "Met Gallery" to save your favorite pieces from the collection, your "Met Calendar" to receive notices of events your interested in and visit your "Met Store" where your address gets automatically filled in for ordering. Already there are 2,600 MetNet members. Encouraging users to visit other art sites, there are hundreds of links to other art sites. Having spent $2 million in site development and with 8 full-time people working on the site, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's shop spent some effort to ensure that their Web site was usable but also museum quality.

After the presentation, guests enjoyed nice hors d'oeuvres of roast beef on toasted garlic, salmon on pumpernickel with capers, sushi and stuffed grape leaves and chatted about all they'd seen and the snowy night outside.