Virtually Nothing

South Florida's museum Websites offer scant samplings of their collected works

The Norton's Exhibition Archive section covers a whopping 67 shows from the past several years. The links include samples from their respective shows along with overviews that range from one to several paragraphs. The Upcoming Exhibitions section has previews of four shows, all but one with a sample reproduction. And the Current Exhibitions section has information on three shows, one of which -- "American Impressionism: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" -- is represented by seven clickable thumbnails.

But it's the Permanent Collections page that most distinguishes the Norton site. It's divided into seven categories: American, Renaissance Through Baroque, Chinese, Contemporary, Outdoor Sculpture, European, and Photography. With the exception of the Outdoor Sculpture collection, which is minimal, each collection is represented by at least 25 reproductions.

We get a good sense of the museum's American collection, which boasts such treasures as Jackson Pollock's Night Mist (1945) and Georgia O'Keeffe's Pelvis with Moon (1943), by way of nearly 50 thumbnails. And the exceptional European collection gets its due with thumbnails of 55 works, including pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Courbet, Chagall, Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, and de Chirico, making the Norton site by far the most comprehensive in terms of reproductions.

A minor but nevertheless irritating thing about many of these sites is an inattention to detail that's all too prevalent on the Internet. I ran across The Temptest (as opposed to The Tempest) and Edgar Allen (rather than Allan) Poe on the Art and Culture Center site, and a link to the floor plans of the Museum of Art refers to the museum's beloved William Glackens as Glakens.

One page at the Boca Museum site includes links to "Exhibition Archibe" and "Partneships," and Georges Braque's first name is Anglicized to George. Even the Norton's impressive site botches Braque's name the same way and gives us photographer Audré (instead of André) Kertesz, painter Alice Neelks (instead of Neel), and a show called "Road Worriors."

Of course, a cybervisit to even the best-designed, most polished museum site, even one with countless high-quality reproductions and a wealth of information, is a poor substitute for a real visit to a real museum. Most art is meant to be seen -- experienced -- firsthand, and unless some techie miraculously comes up with a way to create a convincing illusion of experiencing art that way, we'll just have to keep trudging to museums. That's fine with me.

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