By Anand Holla
As the second annual edition of The New York Times ‘Art for Tomorrow’ conference officially opened last morning, it was clear, right at the outset, that the vast theme of ‘Technology, Creativity and the City’ was in the able hands of the most well-equipped and eloquent experts from all over the world.
Yesterday saw the four-day conference begin with a critical panel discussion on the importance of culture in strategies for local, national and international development. Organised under the patronage of Qatar Museums and its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Art for Tomorrow’s opening discussion had a panel that included al-Thani; Charles Landry, the author of The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators; and Francesco Bandarin, the Assistant Director General for Culture at Unesco, and it was moderated by The New York Times columnist Roger Cohen.
Al-Thani said, “As a nation that’s growing very quickly, embracing global culture and joining in the narrative of global art, I think it’s quite obvious for us to bring in contemporary artists. We are trying to bring contemporary artists here, to inspire young artists to see what’s happening around the world, and to be inspired. That’s what we have tried to do and will continue to do, with complete respect to our tradition.”
At the W Doha Hotel & Residences, some of the world’s leading artists, curators, art collectors and museum directors have been brought together to explore the complex relationships between the digital world and the creative process, the nature of creativity, its impact on developing cities and nations, and what makes a city ‘creative’.
Several insightful points were made throughout the panel discussions – too many to enlist, in fact. In the panel discussion on The Digital Museum, Wim Pjibes, General Director, Rijksmuseum, said that Google’s technology has benefited certain aspects of museums. “Even my most esteemed curators had never seen some details before. (With Google) you can zoom in on every specific detail. One of the guys came to the office and said – I have seen something that I have never seen before. Of course, it’s always been there. It has been painted by Rembrandt in the 17th century. Thanks to Google’s technology, that detail surfaced, funnily enough, for the first time. Google, therefore, is very important to unlock collections,” he said.
Pjibes also explained why traditional museums are still the real deal. “You can Skype or Facetime with your partner, but a real dinner with candlelight is unbeatable. That’s what it is about – the authenticity, the real experience, the real face-to-face to a person or an object, to The Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci) or The Night Watch (Rembrandt).”
In the panel discussion ‘How is the Internet Redefining the Value of Art?’, David Goodman, Executive Vice President of Digital Development and Marketing, Sotheby’s, and David Gryn, Director, Daata Editions and Artprojx, discussed how the Internet is affecting the way we see, digest, collect, deal in and, above all, value art in the digital age.
Goodman said, “In the music business, you have a number of things like EDM, hip hop, newer things in the music business, that people had trouble to value. An interesting outlier in Obama’s recent address to the nation in January, he was advocating for every schoolchild to learn how to code. It’s a really interesting idea because to the next generation, coding is probably as natural as a paintbrush to someone like my generation. I think what’s interesting is things that over time create the most value are oftentimes the things that were most radical when they were introduced. To a certain extent, time is a great indicator of what creates value.”
Goodman also spoke of how since Sotheby’s, one of the world’s great auction houses, deals with extraordinary objects that have a narrative, it’s able to “create extraordinarily compelling stories and are able to distribute those stories in more ways across more platforms than ever before.
“As a result of that, we are able to reach people in different ways and that reach creates more awareness, then more interest ultimately, and validated by statistics, our registration has increased triple digits,” Goodman said.
The 2016 edition of ‘Art for Tomorrow’ has been expanded into a four-day programme. In addition to the wide range of panel discussions, presentations and roundtables scheduled, the entire 29th floor of the W Doha Hotel & Residences has been transformed into a pop-up art gallery where works from a variety of top artists will be on display for the duration of the conference.
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