Clark website gives curatorial powers to online community

The Francine and Sterling Clark Art Institute’s “Remix” exhibit brings the world of 16th- to 18th-century art into the modern world.

Clark Remix Photo
Staff at the Clark showcase their new virtual technology.

By taking part in the Clark Remix project, the participant becomes the curator of his own museum, choosing which invaluable pieces to show in his own gallery. More than 80 paintings, 300 decorative arts objects and 20 sculptures from the Clark’s permanent collection are at one’s disposal.

Two digital applications are also available, one of which is an exciting salon-style installation called uExplore, in which one can access texts, audio and video to learn more about these works of art. The other, uCurate, is an application in which one can select a group of artworks and design one’s own “curatorial remix.” The Clark has even offered to pick the most intriguing virtual exhibits and put them on display in its permanent galleries, making the viewer’s virtual space a physical reality.

In my own virtual exhibition, I decided to have a French theme, primarily influenced by Edgar Degas’ bronze horse sculptures. The first piece in my gallery was Degas’ Horse Standing, cast in 1919-21 and acquired by the Clark in 1923. At 29 cm, this study of equestrian strength is incredible to behold. Rearing Horse, the next piece in my gallery, is even more impressive: The musculature of this horse, its sheer power, is cast in incredible detail from Degas’ original wax sculptures. I included a last piece by Degas, Grand Arabesque, Second Time, which depicts a ballerina on her right foot, the left leg and arms extended.

I then moved on to paintings, starting with Constant Troyon’s The Gamekeeper, a portrayal of a man taking care of his hunting dogs. What I found intriguing about this particular painting was that the focus was not on the human but rather on the dogs: Paired and alert, they are portrayed as intelligent, empathetic beings. Troyon was said to have raised animals in the Touraine, specifically on the Loire River (all fun facts I learned on the Clark’s uExplore application), and had studied their anatomy thoroughly, an impressive feat considering the fact that animals do not typically enjoy posing for artwork.

I then chose François Boucher’s Vulcan Presenting Arms to Venus for Aeneas, a tiny painting bursting with detail. The composition revolves around Venus; her husband, Vulcan, is showing her a sword made for Aeneas. Two Cyclopes work at an anvil above the couple. This is a classic portrayal of Virgil’s Aeneid, more specifically his eighth book. My next choice was an oil painting on canvas by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Young Woman in a Pink Skirt, an enigmatic depiction of the human figure. This young woman curiously stares away from the viewer out of heavily lidded, tired eyes. Upon closer look, one can see that her eyes, opaque and empty, lack pupils. She slouches and her lips are parted slightly, contrasted by the vividness of her white shirt and the joviality of her pink skirt. This painting was groundbreaking during its time, showing a more genuine and convincing form of emotion without the typically exaggerated gestures of sadness such as a hand to the forehead.

I concluded with a different medium: porcelain. The Clark’s River God, most likely modeled by sculptor Louis-Antoine Fournier. It is actually one of the earliest surviving examples produced by the royal Vincennes Porcelain Manufactory. This figure is depicted to be a pinnacle of manhood: The bearded God rests on top of a dolphin, whose body transforms into a large shell at the back of the sculpture. Cracks which appear on the God’s right leg are masked by a cluster of flowers, which were one of the earliest and most popular products manufactured at the Vincennes. The porcelain factory from which this figure originated was known for developing artificial porcelain made out of a white soft paste, which was able to compete with porcelain produced in the Far East and the Meissen factory in Dresden.

The Clark has done a wonderful job of updating its permanent collection and bringing it into a very technological world. The Clark Remix is an accessible, user-friendly interface that is certain to attract both art enthusiasts as well as those simply curious about the museum’s impressive collection.