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Museums put art on high-tech canvases

The Guggenheim Foundation is adding cyberspace to its notable list of addresses, alongside its celebrated architectural landmarks in cities worldwide.

The Guggenheim Foundation is adding cyberspace to its notable list of addresses, alongside celebrated architectural landmarks in cities such as New York and Bilbao, Spain. this month launched a preview of its new Web site featuring two interactive online exhibitions: "The Art of the Motorcycle" and "French Art and Russian Collectors." The site from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation also offers a peek at The Guggenheim Las Vegas Museum, which opened last week.

The site preview comes as museums and artists are taking advantage of the interactive nature of the Web by using it as a high-tech canvas for showcasing artwork. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), for instance, highlights a selection of digital works through its Web site under a section titled "e-space." Last year, the museum recognized artists Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey with a $30,000 prize for their work, which makes heavy use of the online medium.

In addition, smaller up-and-coming organizations are creating online museums. Corte Madera, Calif.-based, a nonprofit organization developed by a group of environmental artists, recently unveiled a soft launch of the site. aims to create a "traditional museum turned inside out" by directing visitors to environmental art works found outdoors.

Carolyn Clark, an Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, said the success of museum Web sites depends upon whether they can blend their offline and online efforts, such as finding sponsorships, increasing memberships, promoting online stores, and selling tickets.

"Some of the sites really focus well on the educational aspect and providing a kind of database," Clark said. But, "if you're an avid museum-goer, obviously, you want to see what's new, what new exhibits (are offered), also anything that can kind of ease your process in terms of becoming a member or donating" money.

At, art enthusiasts can click through a menu of the "French Art and Russian Collectors" exhibit and watch a video as they listen to an audio guide of a favorite movement or artist. The site, which is sponsored by Absolut and Visa, also provides a 3D gallery of motorcycle design featuring 99 of the past century's notable bikes. includes museums in New York; Bilbao, Spain; Venice, Italy; and Berlin, as well as other museums around the world. As a for-profit entity, the company said it would generate revenues from sources such as content, subscriptions, advertising, sponsorships, syndication and e-commerce. also has investments from Pequot Private Equity, Softbank Venture Capital and GE Equity.

"The rich content and extensive curatorial expertise of the participating institutions represent a breadth and depth of collection and programming content in the visual arts that is virtually unsurpassed," Thomas Krens, director of the foundation, said in a statement.