Internet Unveils the Mask of the Muse

The Internet changed our life and society a lot in this new era. To this extent, technology shapes our society. The museum, as an important cultural interface in the network of the whole society, is undoubtedly influenced by the internet. Arthur Park once cautioned the museum that they had to change. Otherwise, the unchanged museums were “dead institutions” (Alexander, p.10). Therefore, many museums make full use of the internet and digital media to maximize their value and expose functionality.

On the one hand, the integration of the internet and the museum makes the art more accessible. Museum was originated from the word “muse.” “Muse” is not only the symbol of beauty but also the representative of mystery and unattainability. Internet uncovered the veil of the muse. First, People do not need to spend a lot of time (sometimes some money) on the way to the museum. If Chinese students want to learn some paintings of World War II, they can just enter into key words in Google Arts and Culture and may find Guernica in Museo Nacional Centro De Art.

It saved their time on the trip to Spain. From this perspective, the internet also helps to extend the educational function of the museum, which engages people from all over the world into “a global, international system or network of networks for Art” (Irvine, p.2). Anyone who is interested in art and museum can be connected to the museum node he or she wants to explore. They can both appreciate the art online and register some courses and tours provided by the museum just by clicking the button. Meanwhile, due to the accessibility of the artworks, the establishment of digitization and sharing standards of cultural relics, and the improvement of intellectual property protection system of cultural relics, a new kind of “virtual” museum beyond the space will appear. Different museums can easily get access to each other and hold a virtual online exhibition together. The function of the exhibition is strengthened.

On the other hand, the internet may change the exhibition experience. Take the No.9 painting as an example. We can learn some basic information about it on the webpage of the Philips Collection Museum. By clicking the “Enlarge” button, we can have a clear view of No.9. However, from my standpoint, only by visiting the museum and taking a close look to it can we have a better understanding of this piece of art. Firstly, I found that Mondrian used different black to separate the space. Those overlapping lines which I thought they were of the same color when I watched it online are different regarding their grayscale.

Different shades of color help to construct the sense of layering. Also, how the museum displays this painting also enrich my viewing experience. This work was hung on the latticed wall, completely blending into its background. Although this way of display contradicts the theory of White Cube which focus on removing artworks from any aesthetic context and eliminating the external influences, I still think the immersion experience reduce the distance between art and audience. The latticed wall magnifies the sense of space and unity in No.9. Rothko Room is another good example.

From the webpage, you may think his painting was the arrangement and combination of color blocks. But, if you walk into the room, viewing those painting within different distances, you may obtain an interesting experience. When I first viewed the painting from a far distance, I saw the violent collision between the blocks. Then, I took a close look; I suddenly felt that I was quite small in front of this huge paining and some kind of strong emotion swallowed me. I can feel the purity and the power of the painting. Nevertheless, we could not experience these feeling by watching the online works. The distance between the screen and eye partly negated the connection between the artworks and the audience. People’s online experience was affected by many external factors such as physical distance and computer configuration. From this aspect, the internet diminished the artistry and value of artworks.

The Internet is a double-edged sword for the museum. To what extent the museum use technology and digital media is the main concern. And with the development of digital media interfaces, how does the framework and boundaries of Art and non- Art change (Irvine, p.2)? Whether we can say that the deliberately designed webpage for us to view different artworks just like an online gallery can be regarded as a new category of Art?


Alexander, Edward P., Mary Alexander, and Juilee Decker. 2017. Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Functions of MuseumsRowman & Littlefield.

Martin Irvine, The Insitutional Theory of Art and the Artworld, Georgetown University CCT.

Daniel Buren, “Function of the Museum.” In Theories of Contemporary Art, edited by Richard Hertz, 2nd ed., 189–92. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

O’doherty, Brian. 1999. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space Univ of California Press.

Photo credits:


Yunhongyi Xu(Andrea)