An on-line Louvre of the art of Web design
By Patti Hartigan, Globe Staff, 05/21/99
Where do you go when you're suffering brain cramps? You could stare at a wall, but you feel like you need something a little bit more, well, artistic. The Museum of Web Art is the perfect antidote, an on-line gallery that is the visual equivalent of ambient music. Its displays are easy on the eye yet entertaining. There's even an exhibition of wallpaper. Not the stuff you hang in parlors, but the stuff that decorates your monitor.
The brainchild of a California graphic artist named Amy Stone, the museum (http://www.mowa.org) is a showcase for Web design elements, used mainly in commercial art. The wallpaper gallery features stripes and slithery snakes. Another gallery features different designs for click-on buttons; another features page counters.
Strange stuff for a museum, that. But Stone, and her partner Mark Kaproff, set out to create a site that is both utilitarian and artistic. ''I got on line about two years ago, and as a designer, I was looking to find good examples of Web elements,'' Stone says. ''I had to surf constantly.''
She started to collect examples and launched the museum in January. Originally, the ''collection'' featured graphic design works, but now some of the exhibitions straddle the line between fine and commercial art. In ''Millennium Diary,'' for instance, one artist designs a new page for each day of the year leading up to 2000; poetry and multimedia images mark the passage of time.
The site is designed to emulate a physical museum, with arrows pointing to a visitors' center, various galleries, and the main entrance. It's quirky, yet fascinating. Web art is an emerging form, and nobody has really defined it beyond saying that it can exist only in cyberspace. But like Stone, other designers are looking for resources; the site showcases work by more than 50 artists and receives about a million hits a month.
''We think we have a friendly collection of things that can be useful, whether that be the design or the technology that drives it,'' Stone says. ''Whenever there's a new technology, you're going to have more things that are mediocre than excellent. That's why you have to have institutions that call attention to what is excellent.''
This story ran on page D9 of the Boston Globe on 05/21/99.