The Artwork of the 20th Century


 As the virtual world of the Internet has grown, so has the business of art. The gallery scene, and thereby the majority of exhibition spaces for modern and contemporary art has partly moved to the Internet or to art fairs, which take place on every civilized continent throughout the year. Galleries require no longer an exhibition space to promote their artists as they can simply present their works by making use of the Internet. But what is the downside of this practice? 

This virtually constructed world is too transparent, and its primary function as a market space has become more than obvious. There are no secrets anymore. The free distribution of information and the offering of products does not seem to have limitations. As X knows even more about Y than Y has disclosed him/herself, the world becomes smaller and smaller; and the result is that we are closer than ever  to becoming omniscient.

Creating a virtual life has made it easy to track an artist’s work, the prices it has fetched, and what several people have written about it thanks to

Google Art Project, Google Maps, Google Books, Social Media, The Cloud, iTunes and newspaper websites, not to mention smartphone technology.

These types of program, created by binary code, have produced a scaffold similar in concept to Herman Hesse’s novel ‘Das Glasperlenspiel’ (‘Glass Bead Game’), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. His novel, published in two parts, illustrates many aspects of human life; such as the path of the education system, and other kinds of institutionalisation. In a nutshell, he touches upon the purest essence of human life: Existentialism. Although Hesse’s work was published in 1946, the content of his work and the content published on the Internet, as well as each piece of art, tell the same story. These written words and visual images intensively raise awareness to the joy gained by the little things in life, and help us to conserve the lightness of life.

So if we can already see online what is exhibited at art fairs, in art galleries and museums, why should we even leave the house; or why should we try to get ‘institutionalised’ if we can just be part of the world while sitting at home in front of our computers? We can do it all from home: going to the Open University, having a job interview and job conferences over Skype, ordering food online, speaking to our friends and family via voice or video chat, and of course observing new pieces of virtualized artworks.

But how could this change happen? Has the art world moved online because there is hardly any space left for it in our capitalistic society? Has our system, based on rules, hierarchies, money and on the distinction between right and wrong, modified the natural essence of human life, which originally has no intention to sell something to others for paper money?

May it be considered as capitalistic, socialistic or humanistic, the only difference between Herman Hesse’s ‘Glass Bead Game’ and the virtual world is that people have the possibility to choose whether they want to be part of it or not. Undoubtedly, the Internet has become an additional screen-based medium for the exchange of ideas, commodities and visual images. It is used by almost everyone – regardless of their profession or origin. Nonetheless, our world – the life of art, or the art of life –  is still out there, waiting to be re-explored by us.

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