Art is sometimes lost. History is riddled with stories of how museums and galleries around the world have had works stolen, destroyed or misplaced. Sometimes thousands of pieces of art have suffered this fate. In other cases works of art have been carelessly left in the wrong place and discarded by the cleaners.
Times of war and natural disasters have also claimed precious pieces of our artistic history. Luckily in many cases, particularly in reference to contemporary art, there is documentation through artist interviews, photographs and images. This has allowed the works to be recorded through the impact they have made on people who had experienced the work, over the years. Older works are more difficult to retrace in this fashion, yet they too can resurface, in many cases, if people take the time to dig through the archives of libraries, in search of these remnants, they often unearth images and records of lost works.
There is now a new place on the internet to observe many of these lost treasures in an easy accessible form. The Tate has sponsored a new site that aims to show many of these works digitally, with plans to add to the archive as new material is sourced, over the coming years. These pieces will no longer be forgotten or lost as they are resurrected with a new perspective for the world to uncover.
The website is masterfully designed and is aptly called the Gallery of Lost Art. Viewers will immediately notice on the homepage that the website is updated every week to contain new work. After 12 months it will go dark, and remain lost. It is a very potent action which will hopefully bring viewers to the site before it is gone forever. Upon entering the site there is an option of four tabs which take a visitor to sections that explain the project, allow for the viewing of work by artist, as well as a unique section which suggest users browse the site by means of loss. In that sense works can be examined as a piece that was stolen, or attacked, even once that were designed to be ephemeral and dissolve, or disintegrate over time. Each section contains audio, with members of staff who collaborated in the curation of the project, or the artist themselves.
Very few websites, particularly in relation to galleries are as well designed as this one. It is interactive, allowing viewers to feel as if they are a somewhat detached omnipresence that is hovering above an artist’s work space or gallery containing all of these pieces of work re-found. It works, it really does and it is an absolute pleasure to view and engage with. This week has seen an outstanding collection of work, some displayed for the first time in years. Work by Lucian Freud, Tracey Emin, Frida Kahlo, and Marcel Duchamp, are only a few clicks away, shown in a way that forms a collective show within it’s own right. Many of these pieces would never have been seen together and yet they are all tied together in their nothingness.
This site is a major collaboration. Not only is the Tate one of the sponsors but Channel 4 has collaborated as well. Both names alone carry a lot of wait and predictably a great deal of pressure to ensure that this site is anything but average. The selection of works are curated by Jennifer Mundy in conjunction with the Tate and is currently the largest collection of lost art that exists anywhere in the material world as well as on the internet. Specifically, it is Tate Media, a branch of the four galleries which is engaged in this project. Tate Media aims to work beyond the typical gallery space and produce projects that engage with viewers beyond the traditional and into forms of interactive and creative means of digital technologies.
Hopefully this website will become a permanent archive but don’t wait to take advantage as they may disappear forever and may never be shown again in this fashion. This site has become a a very powerful tool, that expresses a new understanding of the loss of art. It has become a Wiki/Frankenstein project in a sense where pieces of sometimes forgotten are beautifully stitched together to create a powerful entity. Traversing the work on the site is an absolute pleasure and chance to detach from a gallery setting and examine the essence of the work. It is your observations that bring this collection to life.
Visit Gallery Of Lost Art Here
Words by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012
Image of Tracey Emin’s work: “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With” © Tate