Garet Field-Sells, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Installation Media and Magazine asks museum institutions to rethink their presence in the mobile marketplace.  When the museum has every opportunity to connect with their audience, why do they fall short?

While the opportunity for exploration in the way communities share knowledge in a constantly evolving digital age is great, some industries seem stagnant and stubborn to reinvent their business model in order to reach audiences they lost years ago.  The art industry, and the artists that drive the conversation simply are not taking advantage of this tablet and mobile platform, and I want to know why.

I run my hand over the tactile and rough, raw canvas and I feel lost.  I do not have direction, I do not know what to do.  I look at the retina display of my iPad, see numbered empty lines waiting for HTML5 code, wire framed InDesign layouts and a dynamic publishing backend of this magazine- the magazine I co-founded and I am inspired.  I know what I want to say.  These tools are like brushes.  My computer is dipped in Manganese Blue and I just paint, allowing the blank retina screen to tell me what each step is along the way, what the magazine requires to be fulfilled and ready for the gallery walls, or yours, our most supportive collector.

In Evolve, we cover innovation in the artistic practice– however you might interpret it.  Occasionally, we cover the incredible offerings that other tech wizards and creatives may have conceptualized for this new and quickly adapting platform, a compendium of Apps.  After showcasing other independent digital publishers like us, and Apps for collectors, my intention with this article was to highlight beautifully designed iPad and iPhone experiences produced by iconic institutions.  My intention fell short, as I ran to into repeated failure of mini-websites formatted for the tablet and that offered even less material.

Well, that is not entirely true, several of those websites didn’t even load on my Safari browser.  While I am devout to Apple and their software, I welcome the experience that a museum has to offer.  However, if an institution is going to become a “developer,” and offer a “mobile experience” on the iOS platform– I’d strongly suggest that they understand the limits  of the platform and adjust their products accordingly.  After this initial frustration, I became worried because I promised our Editor-in-Chief a feature on museum guides and I just couldn’t seem to compile an arrangement decent enough to meet our editorial standards.  So this is my back up, an article about failing to find worthy material and instead bring focus to the opportunity I urge the art industry to take advantage of.

Before I go on, there are many Apps produced by various for profit and nonprofit organizations that are pretty inspiring.  Art Circles by for instance is great.  So great it was recently featured by Apple iTunes in their “Celebrate the Arts” editorial curation.  Then there is one App produced by a museum organization I think is well made by the Museum of Modern Art in New York titled Abstract Expressionist New York, aka Ab Ex NY.  Produced by Deep Focus throughout 2010-2011, which complemented the museum’s paired exhibition at the time, the experience is truly wonderful.  So you may ask ‘why I didn’t just select this application and walk you through the highlights, celebrate their achievement and fawn over the iconic collection?’ Firstly, it was released on November 12, 2010 and isn’t really relevant or timely to our current marketplace.  Secondly,  one other major art museum has created something that could compete in over two years.

This tactile platform of swiping, tilting, moving, tapping, dragging, and pinching is the most visceral experience you can create around presenting art besides physically standing next to a piece on the wall.  Every major collector, historian, curator, director and writer has one of these visceral emulators in their pocket, and every museum attendee has one in their hand at all times.  Where is the inspiration and where are the stories? Tablet and mobile experiences produced by the firms these institutions hire offer nothing but pictures and movies, and absolutely uninspired design which reflects nothing of the integrity and identity of these institutions or speak to the magnitude of the collections’ importance.  They may have been produced with the best of intentions but they are merely marketing teams pitched to board members, but never approached the creative process with the same poignant curation of a gallery director and cerebral workflow of a great artist.  They feel more like dead space that a meaningful conversation.

While I’m sure the download rates are low and the development costs of these “Apps” are high, museums are not interested in spending capital on untested and unprofitable programs while many other departments need more funding.  Museums and the endless amount of support systems for emerging art are not creating experiences that can stand alone or that can create revenue and inspire users– but they absolutely can.

If I can’t travel to New York to see an incredible show that I so desperately want to see, I should be able to buy a ticket from my couch and experience it.  The museum makes money to support important programs, I get to see the show and be inspired… this is a completely untapped resource and we’re going to do something about it.  The conversation begins now.

What do you think? Please let me know your thoughts and comments on via Twitter @installationmag or @fieldsells or via email at