Home Electronics: Home Is Where the Art Is

  • Matt Smotzer

Your get-together is a smashing success. The music is right, the wine is a hit, and guests mingle happily. Some spill into the media room to admire the 60-inch flat-panel screen that you’ve proudly hung on the wall, only to discover its face is darkened, because you didn’t want to distract guests with the exploits of life-size gladiator Russell Crowe. This presents the perfect opportunity to treat them to your new virtual art collection.

Corbis, the world’s largest supplier of high-quality images, is making most of its 65 million digital images of fine art, illustration, and photography available for consumer flat-panel display. The new service allows you to turn your screen into a frame for digitized art, a continuous exhibit to be enjoyed in the same fashion as a modern masterpiece or an old-master painting.

Who wouldn’t want a selection of Impressionists from the Hermitage museum or the complete works of Kandinsky? Perhaps you would rather display images of ancient Chinese architecture as a reminder of your last trip, or exhibit a collection of black-and-white photographs of early American baseball players.

To help select from its vast holdings, which include the works of more than 70 museums, Corbis assigns a personal image consultant who will tailor a collection to your taste. Depending on a number of variables (see the box, left) annual costs can range from $10,000 for a package of 360 images to over $150,000 for more than 2,000 images a year. Well-known masterpieces have a higher value than, say, desert photography—or dessert photography for that matter.

If you are going to display art, however, why not take advantage of everything your flat-panel screen offers? Single-channel video is created for one screen or monitor, so it is suitable to display at home. Much like a moving screen saver on a computer, colorful loops of familiar images or abstract patterns are available on CD or DVD. This emerging style of art is best described as the intersection of electronics and painting, drawing, sculpture, and sometimes sound. Because this type of art is not easily described or well known, you may want to attend exhibitions to discover artists whose electronic works suit your tastes.

The Whitney Museum of American Art recently featured a video installation by artist-in-residence Paul Pfeiffer. In one loop, Pfeiffer took video from televised basketball games and edited the images so that the ball is always in the center of the screen. You see the players as they come into the frame to dribble, pass, and shoot, but the ball itself appears not to move, merely to spin in place.

J. Michael James uses a computer to build whimsical 3-D objects and then gives the viewer a slow-motion tour showing every angle. This fall, James and other computer-based artists will be featured at The Ambient Electron, an exhibition at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass.

Not Still Art, a New York–based forum for abstract and nonnarrative electronic motion imaging, offers a limited edition DVD of exhibits from the past three years.

Corbis, 888.829.0722, www.corbis.com

Image Conscious
The value of an image is only one component of Corbis’ custom Digital Display Gallery pricing structure. Below are two examples of packages and their pricing.

Silver Package Annual subscription: $10,000–$15,000
• 1 display/5 picture themes with 18 images for 1 year
• 4 updates a year totaling 360 images
• Images from basic collections of photography
Platinum Package Annual subscription: $150,000 or more
• 1+ displays/5 picture themes with 36 images for 1 year
• 12 updates a year totaling 2,160 images
• Premium images from known photographers/artists from private/historic museums
• Image research and editing required
• Background and context provided for each image

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