In Brief

A New Service Promises an Artistic Afterlife

by Alix Taylor on July 16, 2014

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POBA Homepage (image courtesy of POBA)

In search of the next Vivian Maier? Comb through garage sales no further. POBA: Where the Arts Live launched yesterday and promises to “promote and preserve the creative work of exceptional artists who have died without recognition of the full measure of their talents or creative legacies” (while simultaneously dredging up questions of an internet afterlife). POBA launches with an impressive batch of inaugural artists and portfolios, including the “Picasso-inspired drawings” of Norman Mailer, choreography by American Ballet Theater principal Clark Tippet, and photographs by George Tate.

Norman Mailer, "Open Face" (nd) (image provided by POWA)

Norman Mailer, “Open Face” (nd) (image provided by POBA)

The self-described “virtual cultural arts center” is inspired by the Buddhist term phowa, which Wikipedia describes as “the practice of conscious dying” or “transference of consciousness at the time of death.”

At a starting annual rate of $49.95, the web-based nonprofit essentially provides a platform for grieving families (and estate managers or anyone else who owns the right to a creative legacy) to publish and expose their dead loved ones’ lasting artistic expressions.

Playing on the Antiques Roadshow dream of discovering a masterpiece in your neighbor’s cluttered attic, POBA also offers clients access to affiliated archivists, printers and distributors to produce and sell originals and “high quality prints” of their deceased’s work. It’s unclear if, sales possibilities aside, POBA and it’s clients envision a future in which the digital service will attract the attention of museums and curators in search of the next Arthur Pinajian or aforementioned Vivian Maier.

Still, there’s something a little eerie about actively honing in on death as the unifying curatorial thread for your virtual collection. But as the internet changes the way we mourn, and services that plan for digital death and afterlife pop up left and right, it makes sense that the art world would clamor onboard the macabre trend of virtual commemoration. After all, in the digital age an immortal online portfolio may be the next memorial concert or posthumous retrospective.

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