art and technology featured image

In May 2015, some of the most prestigious opera houses across Europe began streaming performances live online. Budding opera enthusiasts could follow the six-month project for free at The Opera Platform, an EU-backed website aimed at making opera more accessible to the public. The final performance is due in September, when the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet will produce Puccini’s La bohème (subtitled online in six languages).

This isn’t the first attempt to ‘livestream’ opera performances using new technology. In 1890, the théâtrophone was marketed in Paris as a way for subscribers to listen to opera and theatre performances live over their telephone lines. The French novelist Marcel Proust apparently had one installed in his home in 1911, and would eagerly listen to Wagner and Debussy from the comfort of his living room.

Today, there are a series of projects aimed at getting art online. From the Google Cultural Institute, which aims to digitise millions of artworks, collections and stories from around the world, to institutions such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which allows virtual tours of its exhibits by desktop or mobile device.

But can technology capture the experience of visiting a gallery, theatre or opera house? Will digitising artwork help to make it more accessible to a wider audience, or will it encourage people to stay at home instead of taking a trip to the local museum? We’ll be looking at these questions and more in the debate below.

First, do you want to see some more examples of projects technology to digitise works of art and culture? Take a look at the infographic below (click for a bigger image)


We’ve had some questions and comments sent in by citizens on this topic. Our first question was sent in by Giuseppe, asking whether viewing art online (whether it is a performance or a painting) diminishes the experience.

To get a response, we put this question to Amit Sood, Director of the Google Cultural Institute. He argued that putting art online enhances rather than diminishes the experience and, whilst “the digital cannot replace the physical”, it can increase public enthusiasm for (and access to) art and culture:

Our next question came from Ozcan, who argued that there is a perception that the art world can be ‘elitist’ and exclusionary. Is this a fair perception? And can the internet help dispel this idea, and make art more affordable and open to all?

What would Amit Sood say?

Next, we had a question sent in from Paul, asking what artists think are the potential benefits of the internet to their work. We took this question to Tom Creed, an Irish theatre director who has been directing theatre, opera, and festivals for over a decade. What would he say to Paul?

Finally, we had a question sent in by Sophia, asking whether digitising art might reduce the number of museum, gallery, or theatre visits. Is digital art a threat to physical art?

tom-creedI think the evidence so far [seems] to be that this is not happening. That, actually, [this access] is leading more people to go, and more people to want the live experience [or] to become interested in discovering live performance…

How can technology help introduce art to a wider audience? Does putting art online diminish the experience? Or can the internet make art more interesting, affordable, and open to all? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: Vincent van Gogh – PHOTO: CC / Flickr – jankie

35 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Paul X

    Yes technology can “introduce” art to a wider audience but it can never replace the atmosphere of actually being at a live event, and that atmosphere is as much a part of the experience as the actual performance

    I attended a concert that was streamed live to cinemas throughout the UK for a band I have also seen many times live, and even though I was in a cinema full of people, the streamed concert was completely flat and devoid of any atmosphere. I imagine watching the concert alone on your personal device would be even less enthralling

  2. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Putting art on-line definately INCREASES the experience; at least for those who would otherwsie not-have-had access to that art…

  3. avatar
    Stanimir Stoyanov

    Putting artwork online can complement the experience you have at the gallery (if you’re lucky enough to travel around the world!). There are thousands, if not millions, of enthusiasts who can take virtual walks around galleries they might never ever visit in their lifetime.

    Not to mention the potential all of this has in terms of education, and “breeding” the next generation of art lovers.

  4. avatar
    Ágnes Pászti

    Direct personal experience can not be replaced of course but the online art can help to study the wide horizon of masterpieces have ever been done.

  5. avatar
    Sophia van Dijk

    In my opinion, combining art with technology is a great idea. It allows students from all over the world to access the same art pieces – giving them the same opportunities. It allows people with physical, geographical or other barriers to see art nonetheless. And rather than negatively influencing the number of museum visits, I think it could help to increase these. From my perspective, people (especially those who do not study arts) do not necessarily go to museum to see a particular piece of art, but to feel the experience, to be surprised and to see new things…

  6. avatar
    André Foireau

    Good idea. My concern…. when will we have to start paying for this service?

  7. avatar

    I couldn’t afford to see a live performance of the Berlin Philarmonic, but I can enjoy it through its YouTube channel. So yes, tech does help spread art.

  8. avatar

    Just as long as I don’t have to pay for paint slapped onto some canvas or some people fiddling on violins or whatever, its all fine with me. But I bet this is about more subsidies.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      – not art?

      “I put my heart and my soul into my work,
      And have lost my mind in the process.”
      -Vincent van Gogh”-

  9. avatar
    Raiko Aasa

    Years ago, Charlie Chaplin films weren’t considered art by many. Accordingly for example, Khloe Kardashian’s Instagram account is sneered at by today’s old timers, yet it’s art after all, I would venture to suggest.

  10. avatar
    σαντυ αλεξανδρου

    Art is something natural.It’s passion,it’s tense.What you see,what you feel,what you desire.Technology could help as long as it doesn’t kill the beauty of art.

  11. avatar
    catherine benning

    How art was introduced to me was first via my parents naturally, but then at school. They took us regularly to art galleries, museums, the theatre and the ballet. The best of all when we were taken to the ballet or opera rehearsals. There you saw the blood and sweat of a production.

    And as an earlier poster wrote, art can only truly be appreciated in the flesh.

    I have several wonderful books with the pictures of an artists work, the best of which was a gift of Lucian Freuds paintings. And as much as I love them nothing was like standing in front of the real thing at the Wallace Collection and being surrounded by the approval or disgust of the other viewers.

    Art is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Virtual art does not sear into the emotion the way it has to in order to be fully appreciated and have you transformed by it. So, the only way to expose the human soul to an understanding of such a precious gift is to make it freely available all across the planet and in the flesh.

    Example, here is a picture by Freud. It will give you a glimpse of his style but not of the power in a stroke of his brush and depth of his vision.

    And here is an aria from Madame Butterfly. As beautiful and moving as it is on film or disc, the live performance has you on your bent in half on your knees.

    And last the best of all classical performers.

  12. avatar
    Ulf Skei

    A new arena for the gladiators of sound and light. Yes, it opens doors or windows into minds and souls…

  13. avatar
    Marijus Stasiulis

    Not everything is visible online, because you will see 2D.
    For example if you paint something that is only visible if you look it from far.
    You don’t see any surface. You can’t tell if this is gloss or matte or are there any bumps.
    Also colors look different, because color is electromagnetic wave,
    we all see everything in gray if there is not enough light.
    BTW If you scan a simple pencil sketch it will look better then original.

  14. avatar
    Pierluigi Pedini

    Per non limitare le possibilità di espressione dei non anglofoni propongo in questo dibattito di ricorrere maggiormente alle lingue nazionali e di mettere a disposizione un mezzo di traduzione.
    In quanto al tema del dibattito io penso che il poter disporre online della visione delle opere d’arte sia grandemente utile non solo a chi non avrebbe la possibilità di vederle nella loro realtà fisica ma anche per chi ha delle difficoltà o di vista o di movimenti della testa per poterle osservare penso alla Cappella Sistina.
    Inoltre ho notato che nel caso di grandi affreschi come le Stanze di Raffaello la ripresa televisiva permette di osservare particolari altrimenti quasi invisibili.
    È vero che la scannerizzazione migliora disegni e acquerelli ma mi sembra un prezzo che si possa pagare facilmente…

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More debate series – Society in the Digital Age View all

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.