Broadband Emmy Award banner

Entry Number: 980
Entry Category: (22/Arts, Lifestyle, Culture)
Title of Broadcast/Webcast: Tate Modern - Street Art HD
Title of Story or Report: Tate Modern - Street Art HD
Running Time: Site: interactive, up to 60 mins; video 3 mins
Production Company: BT Group Marketing & Brand
Date content was originally aired / available for viewing (must be 2008): 06 Aug 08
Original URL (if applicable):
Additional Material:  

Tate Street Art HD
06 Aug 08

We love art, but we hate the way it is usually shown online. The failings of the normal way of showing art online were well expressed by Melissa Denes, former art editor of the UK’s Guardian newspaper. In their edition of 6 September 2006, she asked: "Does art work on the web?” She then answered her question in the negative by saying “what you see is not actual… sculptures or installations… (but) only a thumbnail or photograph of the work…. You are reminded that visual art is a live experience. It needs context and scale… it needs to be seen in the flesh".

This could almost be the brief we set ourselves when we started work on Street Art HD: a website recording the first street art show at a major London gallery, and the first time a show has ever been painted onto the front of Tate Modern.

If Ms. Dene’s comments are true for art in a gallery, it is even more true of street art – where the life of the street is integral to the way the art “feels” when you see it. Our intention was to create something that, within the limits of what you can do with broadband, felt like looking at street art in real life, rather than like looking at some jpegs on a webpage. Let’s break down Ms. Dene’s critique and see what we’ve done about it on Street Art HD.

* "what you see is not actual… sculptures or installations… (but) only a thumbnail or photograph of the is a live experience."
Apart from some thumbnails for navigation, there is not one single photo in Street Art HD: the art is depicted using 182 separate videos - some looping, some linear, all interlinked with buttons, timers and hotspots. Why not just use photos, as most websites do? Because video "feels live" in a way that a photo doesn't: people walk by, trees move, etc.

Obviously a linear video documentary on TV also has this feeling of “liveness”. However, we would suggest that site is much more like looking at art in real life than a TV documentary. Because a linear TV documentary inevitably suffers from “the tyranny of the edit”: the director and editor decide what you look at and for how long. But here, you can interactively explore those works you are interested in, for as long as you like.

* "art… needs context and scale":
All the works are shown in context: you see the general environment the works exist in. You see people walking by the works, and looking at them. This gives an instinctive sense of context and scale.

* "visual art...needs to be seen in the flesh"."
Of course, ultimately you are still not seeing the work in real life, you’re looking at it online. However, we believe the experience of visiting Street Art HD is a lot more like viewing art in the flesh than just looking at a normal photo-based website.

Furthermore, there are of course some advantages to viewing the art on the site, rather than in real life. It’s available at your desk anywhere in the world, whenever you want it, for as long as you want it: no crowds, no rain, no need to physically walk the streets of London to find it. And you can listen to a commentary on each work by the show’s curator, Cedar Lewisohn.

A final advantage over real life: in reality, none of the works shown on the site actually exist any more. They were all scrubbed off the walls at the end of the Street Art show. So this site will always remain as the most vivid archive of what the works were like.

Street Art HD was launched in Aug '08, and was an important factor in helping to push the visitor figures for up to 1,391,896 unique visitors for the month - a 28% increase year on year – with an average dwell time of 15.09 minutes per visitor. This helped make the most visited website in the UK in the category "Entertainment - Arts" for 2008:

We hope the site points to a new way to show art online: a way which is not about text and jpgs, but which feels far like you’re actually looking at the work in real life, and better able to relate to it emotionally. Thanks for reading.