Label text rarely describes the life of a painting before it arrived at a museum, yet there’s a whole narrative of ownership in a painting’s journey from an artist’s studio to a static place on the wall. The Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) in Pittsburgh is including this provenance data in a new initiative called Art Tracks. The first phase was recently installed alongside the museum’s Impressionism collection with a digital interface that traces the history of the artworks.
“The touch-based interactive lets visitors ask the question, ‘How did the artwork in this gallery get here?’” Jeffrey Inscho, who heads the Innovation Studio for the four Carnegie Museums, told Hyperallergic. “Visitors are then able to track the artwork’s movement across time and space, watching each work eventually end up on the wall of the museum. It’s our first stab at engaging visitors with Art Tracks, but the future potential is great.”
The collaborative project involved CMOA’s Digital Media Lab, education, and curatorial departments. Louise Lippincott, CMOA curator of fine arts and the main curatorial presence on Art Tracks, said that the project is a tool to answer common visitor questions about authenticity, as well as concerns about responsible acquisitions. She explained to Hyperallergic that a big reason the museum did the Impressionism research was concerns about Nazi provenance issues. “It’s a way for us to demonstrate that we are maintaining the ethical standards of an American museum that has art of this kind,” she said.
As a major industrial center in the late 19th and early 20th century, Pittsburgh was at that time a center for Old Master painting collecting. Although locals Andrew W. Mellon and Henry Clay Frick had their collections go elsewhere — to the National Gallery of Art and the Frick Collection respectively — a concentration remained in Pennsylvania. Many of the CMOA painting donations date to the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, and Art Tracks can recall this hometown industrial heritage, as well as the greater cultural context of the art. It can also offer some surprises, like when curators examined a painting in storage which Lippincott said looked “totally like a fake,” and through work with a conservator and a provenance researcher proved to be an authentic 16th-century portrait of Isabella de Medici.
“At the moment, we’re just doing our own collections and own provenances to tell the story of how our paintings got to Pittsburgh, but a lot more museums can share their data, and then an art historian could ask much more general questions, like how many Monet paintings were in New York in 1960, or track a work from Berlin to Paris in 1937,” Lippincott said.
With phase one in the museum, it’s now concentrating on connecting with other museums to broaden the scope of Art Tracks. CMOA authored a standard data structure for provenance, and also created an open-source tool called Elysa so that other museums could similarly structure their provenance, with the ability to connect the data across institutions. This November, CMOA will host a “hackathon” to involve software developers in the potential of Art Tracks.
“The more museums that participate, the more detailed picture of global history we can paint via the movements of artwork,” Inscho said. “How did the industrial revolution impact art production in areas of the world? There could be a visualization for that. How has the digital age impacted regional art markets? There could be a visualization for that. Where are all known Van Goghs at this moment compared to 20 years ago? There could be a visualization for that. The possibilities are endless.”
Phase one of Art Tracks is installed in the Impressionist galleries of the Carnegie Museum of Art (4400 Forbes Avenue Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
I won’t bother you with talk about how obscenely decadent and out of touch the Frieze art fair is. And yet…
Curators Tahnee Ahtone, La Tanya S. Autry, Frederica Simmons, Dan Cameron, and Jeremy Dennis offered the public a window into their curatorial processes through the work they produced during their fellowships.
Who says tragedy has to be tragic? Co-presented with National Black Theatre, this fresh, Pulitzer-winning take on a classic centers Black joy and liberation.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Jeremy Dennis presents an exhibition to offer insight into his curatorial process.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Dan Cameron presents an email exhibition to offer insight into his curatorial process.
For the triennial’s eighth edition, work by more than 70 artists is featured in 12 exhibitions and a polyphonic program, installed at various locations throughout the German city.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Frederica Simmons presents an email exhibition to offer insight into their curatorial process.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, La Tanya S. Autry presents an exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
This exhibition explores the work and short-but-impactful life of the groundbreaking ceramic artist. Now on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
As part of Hyperallergic’s Emily Hall Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, Tahnee Ahtone presents an email exhibition to offer insight into her curatorial process.
This week: Why does the internet hate Amber Heard? Will Congress recognize the Palestinian Nakba? And other urgent questions.
Artist Dan Jian makes the point that landscapes and memory are one and the same.