thoughts on art, interactivity, technology, design, culture & life

Posts Tagged New York

I recently took a trip to the upper east side of Manhattan to visit the Guggenheim and Jewish museums. The Jewish Museum was awesome the Guggenheim was awful...here's why:

A glance at a successfully curated museum experience

I began at the Jewish Museum to see the Alias Man: The art of reinvention exhibit. This exhibit was easily one of the most well curated exhibits I've seen in a long time. It was well thought out presenting Man Ray's work in a relatively chronological order, hooking it to the artist's biography and world events allowing the spectator to understand the 'why' of the art with considerable ease. The text accompanying the exhibit was well written, so well written in fact that it almost stopped traffic flow as even I (like many others) read to find out what came next in this artists life. Artworks that were relevant to one another, were presented together leading visitors to draw conclusions on their own (what I like to call 'ahh ha' moments).

In my opinion the curation was flawless, but more importantly it was accessible. The visitor did not need a fancy pedigree or a background art history or philosophy background to understand the core tenants of why Man Ray's work was important. There was no need to struggle for understanding or focus, this made it easier for myself (and I'm sure many other visitors) to remain receptive when viewing works such as The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse1 an object (we don't know what kind of object) wrapped in cloth and bound with string. Artworks like this often turn people off of art, but in this exhibit the sterile, unfeeling, lack of thought was stripped from the object. It was presented in context with Gift2, one of my personal favorites, the juxtaposition of the objects I felt helped with understanding: it was much less object in the center of a white box without a plaque fuck you we normally see in museums.

For me the reason I loved this exhibit is that I could tell that a lot of though and effort went into sharing Man Ray's legacy with the public in a way that allowed ANYONE from the public to understand. I could feel the love and passion of those who worked to create this exhibit and their passion to share that with the museum's visitors. It was very delightful.

A glance at a museum experience gone wrong

My delight at the Jewish museum I fear may have lead me to expect the same from the world renowned Guggenheim Museum. After waiting in line for 15 minutes in front of the most annoying and pretentious European pricks I finally was inside the museum. The line inside the museum to get tickets was non-existent. Instead the bevy of potential ticket holders loitered around not knowing who was next to make a purchase. I usually can overlook chaos at a museum's entrance but this seemed slightly more ridiculous than usual.

Once I was in the ground level I could see the Tino Sehgal3 performance in the center: a couple making out. This performance was awesome, in fact it may have been my favorite thing I saw all day. As I wound my way up Wright's spiral I noticed a shocking absence of something relatively important in an art museum: ART. The spiral was void of the very thing it was intended to display. I am not entirely sure why this is, I am not so secretly hoping this absence is actually part of an idea or artwork that I completely missed (if so please let me know), in any case I felt cheated.

If you've been to the Guggenheim before you'll know that each level of the spiral has galleries off the main path. These galleries each contained different exhibits. I want to tackle them each separately since I was disgusted by each for different reasons. PLEASE NOTE: The museum was crowded, loud, and frustrating to begin with -- my disgust and inability to feel at ease really made a poor experience even worse.

Malevich In Focus: 1912-19224

First off, the lighting in this gallery was terrible, secondly the Guggenheim took arguably one of the least accessible (and possibly most innovative) artists of the first half of the 20th century and failed to explain to someone who has never seen Russian avant-garde why Malevich was one bad ass dude. Great, I'm a first time visitor who has never seen Malevich before, what the hell is this guy doing with all of these red and black triangles and squares? Further more even if there were placards explaining all this (and there were a few, the ones I read were boring as hell and not exactly my idea of well done) I would not want to read them since it was a space that was way too small and poorly lit. It was clear that this exhibit was not designed for the general public but for the art history buffs, who not only know what Cubisim, Italian Futurism and the Russian avant-garde are but can write an essay outlining their importance to modernism.

Paris and the Avant-Garde: Modern Masters from the Guggenheim Collection5

There is no disputing that the Guggenheim has an awesome permanent collection, but the title of this exhibit lead me to have a few expectations:

  1. The fact that the exhibit is centered around Avant-Garde artists who worked in the same city (Paris) leads me to believe that I will learn something about which of these artists influenced each other, spent time together or better yet despised each other.
  2. Since these artists were working in the same city, I would expect at least one pair of paintings by two separate artists depicting the same Parisian subject matter in different ways. They're all working in the same city, surrounded by the same things: I want proof.
  3. I want to know what was so avant-garde about these paintings (I know, but I want the average Joe to know too: I'm tired of explaining to Grandma why Norman Rockwell is not a better painter than Marc Chagall or Pablo Picasso)
  4. Tell me why they're masters, these paintings are obviously important as they are owned by the Guggenheim -- but nothing has been done to convince me why their works are important or why these men (there may have been a woman in there, but I didn't notice any) were masters.
  5. As a museum nerd I really want to know where these pieces came from, why they were purchased and more importantly some cool facts about them. The Guggenheim as guardian of these works must have the most complete history, and know the full importance of each of these works, they should share that: I paid $18 for you to tell me.

Needless to say, none of these expectations were met.

Anish Kapoor: Memory6

In the time I was at the museum I saw one piece (a gigantic piece) by Kapoor called Bombay, it was cool, but if there was more than one piece there was no apparent way to get to it, see it and there certainly weren't any signs pointing to it. I was surprised because I honestly expected Kapoor's work to adorn the spiral. I was disappointed.

Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum7

Possibly the most accessible exhibit at the museum due to designer/artist/architect documentation of their submissions to this exhibitions, but the exhibit read something like my high school art show. I am unsure of how much I like this, on one hand it was not pretentious and therefore much more approachable. On the other hand there were no names next to the artists work -- instead the visitor had to pick up a newspaper like pamphlet (super awkward format for a gallery setting, and the supply was running low when I grabbed mine) and match the number next to the piece with the number on the paper to see who the piece was created by. For the love of God I don't want to play a game of match-the-numbers when I am looking at art, save that shit for kindergartner worksheets and multiple choice tests. More importantly save yourself the hassle of printing multiple copies of the same thing when you could make one damn copy and hang it on the wall. What were they thinking?

Why the Guggenheim should install an enormous 'Fail Whale' sculpture in their lobby

Some museum experiences are successful, my experience at the Guggenheim just pissed me off -- here's why:

  1. Doing something as simple as getting a ticket should never be a cluster-fuck. I don't care about waiting in line, just don't make me wait in line only to be fed into a loitering group of apathetic hipsters who don't know where the hell to go next.
  2. If you are a museum, you should display art -- the absence of art in an art museum can only be interpreted as two things: 1.) Someone hasn't done their job and needs to be fired, 2.) an artistic statement that will only be understood by those who write the art theory books...the average tourist from Nebraska will likely not get it (no offense Nebraska, I'm sure you're awesome)
  3. I don't want to guess at why an artist created something nor should I need to pick up the poorly design fugly audio guide device to figure that out. Give me a brief well written description so that I don't need to listen to a 5 minute long audio track to get the information I could have gotten by skimming a description in 10 seconds. Seriously, Guggenheim....cut it out with the audio guide only bullshit.
  4. I came to a museum, so don't display work like a high school art show or make me play match-the-number. Grow-up Guggenheim, you're people get paid to do a job, make sure they're doing it and doing it well.
  5. The day I visited lack of diversity in the visitors was appalling, the Guggenheim should be ashamed. Where was the color? Where was the different point of view? Where were the people reminding me that museums are there to serve the community not just a segment of society? It was sad.

Avoiding the fail whale is easy

Museums should make their art accessible to the general public, this begins at the ticket line and carries all the way through to the placement of artworks and artwork's documentation. In short, I shouldn't need to be an over educated ass to understand art, it's importance or why I should care in the first place.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Man Ray, The Enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920/1971. Object, felt, and string. Approx. 13 3/4 x 23 5/8 x 13 in. (35 x 60 x 33 cm). Collection of Marion Meyer, © 2009 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
  2. Man Ray, Gift, 1958 (replica of 1921 original). Painted flatiron and tacks, 6 1/8 x 3 5/8 x 4 1/2" (15.3 x 9 x 11.4 cm). James Thrall Soby Fund. © 2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
  3. The New York Times review of the Tino Sehgal Exhibit
  4. Malevich In Focus: 1912-1922 Exhibit Page
  5. Paris and the Avant-Garde Exhibit Page
  6. Anish Kapoor Exhibit Page
  7. Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum Exhibit Page

My name is Rachel Diesel and I am an art addict. I love art, I always have. I know I am not the only one who loves art, there are millions of art lovers across the world, which is why I was always surprised at the lack of a good website for information on the art world with the web 2.0 flavor I have come to expect of a good informational website. I was elated when I discovered NY Art Beat last week, finally the kind of site I expected and wanted to help me curate my artistic activities in the city.

NYAB buttonNY Art Beat provides information on both their website and iPhone application. Both mediums are well designed (though I expect many additions and updates to the iPhone app, I would happily redesign the app for free -- contact me ;)) NYAB even provides an API to developers allowing their information database to basically go anywhere. As a developer, the prospect of doing a visualization of this information is extremely exciting!

Why I've fallen in love...

In NY there are about a million places to go see amazing, cutting-edge, inspiring art. Selecting, curating, and actually going to these events/exhibitions is nothing short of a small miracle at the end of the day. By the end of every year I can name at least five exhibits I missed because I put it off til the last minute and forgot the end date. I hear about exhibits all the time, I never can remember where they are if I remember them at all. NY Art Beat fixes this by allowing me to bookmark events and exhibits to my NYAB Account. Furthermore I can count on reviews of exhibits and up-to-date information about all the important art events in the city. This has become my new go-to place for my art world information.

To add to my absolute love for NYAB is a solid first version of an iPhone app, providing basic information on events around the town (GPS proximity filtering included!). My ONLY disappointments are that I can't sync my NYAB Account to my iPhone or pull the latest information to my device for viewing when internet is not available (pesky subways). That being said, I usually suggest that apps release with a lighter first version and build out from that. I hope to see these features added in the future.

What I expect in the future

Make it social

Much like the rest of my internet hubs (Hulu, Netflix, Twitter, Facebook, etc...) I expect to be able to share what I like, my recommendations, and events I'll be attending with my social network. I also want to see what my friends are doing. Facebook Connect integration would be great to find friends bookmarks, events and recommendations. Integrating Facebook Connect would also afford the iPhone an easy, pre-built login platform to retrieve user information. Another feature I think would be great is an event badge for bloggers who often talk about specific exhibits. This would not only help bloggers provide up to date information on exhibits without having to gather it all by themselves, but it would allow them to point to NYAB driving traffic to the site -- effectivly becoming a relevant in-line ad targeting it's desired demographic.

Make it .mobi

I am surprised when I see major websites that don't have a mobile version of their site, especially when the information on that site pertains to being out-and-about. If I had an android phone I would be pinching and zooming to try and see the information on the site. The extra time it takes to make the site mobile would be completely worth it in my opinion.

Make it intelligent

The more data you have, the more conclusions you can draw. Zappos knows what shoes I like, Netflix knows what movies I like, Amazon knows what books I like, FreshDirect even knows enough to remind me to buy my favorite items before I check out....NYAB should know what kind of art and art exhibits I like. The NY art world is huge, please put the content I'll like on the front page when I visit.

Remind me

If I have an exhibit saved to my account I should get a reminder via text or email before that exhibit ends. Furthermore I should be able to export or sync my NYAB saved events to my iCal or Google Calender. [CORRECTION: Email reminders are sent from NYAB]

Summary

If you're an art lover like me do yourself a favor and jump on this bandwagon. I'm super excited to see how this site grows, I think it really has the potential to become the best of the best when it comes to information, especially as expands into new locations.

starbucks_itunes_storeStarbucks's first foray into the world of iPhone applications showed up in the App Store a few weeks ago. No now all of us advertising people can walk to Starbucks (SBUX) in our Nike (NKE) kicks then customize our morning cup-o-joe with our Apple (AAPL) iPhones and single-handedly bring back the economy.

I've taken a pretty close look at the app, and I think for a first version the app stands on solid ground. The design of the app is absolutely beautiful and maintains the Starbucks brand while remaining true to the fact that it is an iPhone application. The base level functionality is solid, it provides some great information to the user as well as including some standards we're used to seeing in branded applications such as a store locator. There are some areas however I feel the application stops short of living up to its true potential. I expect the intent of Starbucks was to launch with ground level functionality and then level up based on demands from the App Store reviews and ratings, customer feedback and (hopefully) metrics.

Starbucks iPhone App - Load Screen

Design

About 80% of designs for branded applications out there are really disappointing, and of the ones that aren't disappointing, few of them truly excel -- this is a design that excels. The design of this app is a great example of how to do non-glossy, earthy designs for the iPhone. There is an attention to detail and craftsmanship that makes this app feel special. Despite a heavy feature set and multiple views there is a consistency to the style of the app. Further more the design uses unique (non-standard) functionality only to break up monotony (ie.) the Coffees Explore view -- details like this set this application apart.

Key Features

Store Locator & Invite a Friend

Store LocatorSometimes I question whether early humans were actually nomadic or if they were just lost. As with most well done branded apps today, this app includes a store locator and its one of the best store locators I've seen to date. The app also allows you to easily invite a friend to coffee with you from within a store view, via your preferred method of communication. If you like calling, the app dials their number for you. Selecting email will populate a pre-written email appears for easy customization and sending within the app. Texting brings up an alert view notifying you that it has copied text to your clipboard, so in your Messages app all you need to do is paste and fill in a time. Your lazy bum doesn't need to do much, so you really have no excuse to sit in the corner acting profoundly emo while drinking your chai tea writing poetry.

Drink Customization

Shot CustomizationFor those of us who aren't baristas or never will be baristas this app takes the complication out of the foreign language that is the menu at Starbucks or any other coffee shop for that matter. A menu should not be another version of the Rosetta Stone and I shouldn't need a translator to order in English in an English speaking country. Luckily the application simplifies the task to decoding the menu. The app allows you to easily customize any drink of your choosing. This is an enormous design challenge simply because of all the variables involved but it's was easy to use and well executed. Once you've customized your drink you can save it to your favorites, assign it to a friend (to remember their favorite drink, because you're a good friend) or send it to a friend via Bluetooth.

Bookmarking & myStarbucks

Because this application is information rich and the drill down to that data can be pretty deep having some type of bookmarking system is pretty much mandatory if Starbucks wants people to use their app. Luckily they realized this and provided their users with myStarbucks, you can bookmark just about anything in the app and it will save it here. It's also the first tab, so every time I open the app my preferences are there waiting for me.

Exploring Coffee

The Coffees tab allows you to browse a list of all Starbucks coffees this is great, but Starbucks has a lot of coffees. God forbid you're indecisive, on the run, and need a caffeine fix. Don't worry, Starbucks comes to the rescue allowing the user to select a type of flavor from the explore section in Coffees and it will provide a narrowed down list of coffees matching your preference.

Food Menu

This menu was a surprise to me as I don't think I've ever actually seen this much food in any Starbucks, but its good to see the possibilities I suppose. More important than seeing the possibilities is seeing what that food would pair well with and the nutritional information.

Bookmarking Exploring Coffees Menu Bakery

Common Themes

Starbucks is a meeting place

Invite a FriendCoffee shops have historically been places that fostered conversation among people dating back to 16th century Mecca.1 Starbucks realizes this. By implementing functionality that allows you to easily invite your friends, check if the store you visit has WiFi so you can work for a couple of hours, send a drink to a friend via Bluetooth, or save a friends favorite drink so that you can order it and have it waiting when they arrive Starbucks stays true to it's tradition -- not by ignoring newness and technology but by embracing it. And unlike other social technologies (ahem Facebook, Twitter and MySpace) this actually brings people together in a physical space rather than just a virtual one -- there's something nice about that.

Starbucks keeps you informed

Food Detail Nutritional InformationYou're busy creatures with a complicated life, we don't have time to dig for information about what Starbucks is trying to sell us. Starbucks doesn't know you're on a diet, and they won't open their doors at odd hours just because that's when its convenient for you (don't worry I think you're important). Starbucks at least gives you a tool to build your day around the stuff Starbucks provides for you. Whether it be nutritional information, store hours, menu items, coffee types or in-house amenities, Starbucks wants you to know what you need to when you need to -- they want to make your life easier, not complicate matters. That's what your job, your family, your friends and your lovers are for -- coffee is simple.

Starbucks as a coffee expert

Food Menu DetailI am not a coffee person, but I think it's really cool that Starbucks breaks down flavor options when selecting your coffee. I love wine and I know how daunting selecting a bottle is -- I imagine a coffee lover selecting their morning cup of joe could be equally as overwhelming. Furthermore allowing you to easily pair a drink to the food you ordered not only provides the customer with information, but should they choose to act on that information it could give them a better experience as well.

Starbucks knows you

Customizing DrinkLet's face it, Starbucks at the end of the day is a corporate titan. So for those of us who grew up in towns where coffee shops are run by the guy next door, with local art on the wall, live music and lots of couches -- going to Starbucks feels just a little bit like selling out. But at the end of the day the people who work at your local Starbucks are the people you live next door to, and they might very well know what you normally get every morning without you having to say anything. But if you live in a big city like New York, it is easy to feel like the intimacy gets lost with all the people, having a little pocket barista to consult before ordering, who remembers the last drink you customized or what kind of milk your co-worker likes in their coffee is nice.

What I expect from the next version

Facebook Connect

This is an app that is begging to be integrated with Facebook. Imagine if you had all of your friends favorite drinks right at your fingertips without having to manually collect them one by one on the app. One of your BFFs having a bad day? You could be the person who makes it better by getting them their favorite type of lattè customized to perfection.

Contextual Customization

When you add that extra 2 shots of caramel to your macchiato and switch from 2% milk to whole milk it would be great to see how many extra calories you're going to need to burn off at the gym that night, or how much healthier you'll need to eat at lunch to not go over your Weight Watchers points. Or what if you're a teenager and going through the "I'm a non-conformist hipster" stage (though I highly doubt your non-conformist ass would ever be caught dead in Starbucks, but whatever) and you want to be unique and you see via your iPhone that 5 other people at Starbucks while you're ordering are drinking the Caffè Verona but no one's drinking the Komodo Dragon Blend, hell yeah you're going to order that Komodo Dragon Blend. Contextual customization gives you the tools you need to make better decisions with the plethora of choices you're presented with so you can get on with being your bad ass self even if you're still figuring some stuff out.

Some kind of barcoding system

Yeah, that's right, I said barcoding. I'm unsure of why Starbucks would create an app to customize a coffee to the nth degree without at least contemplating the possibility that scanning a barcode would effectively speed up the ordering process exponentially by allowing the customer to do it on their mobile device.

Integration of the Starbucks Mobile Card app

Having the mobile card separate only makes sense now for three reasons:

  1. its still in beta, and beta means potentially messy...like powdered sugar doughnut messy
  2. there's no barcoding system within the current main application
  3. divide and conqure - both apps have their separate challenges development wise, by building these applications separately, it avoids complications, possibly additional bugs and places both applications on a separate timeline.

I would hope once they get their system up and running smoothly they would opt to integrate the two applications.

Rewards program

Your mobile device is probably the coolest punch card you've ever had and yet few are using it that way. By doing the Starbucks Mobile Card, barcoding and ordering all within the same application not only are they are gathering valuable information, but they could be potentially building loyalty. A rewards program might give a person the extra incentive they need to buy what some might consider that extra cup of over priced coffee.

What the future might hold

Paging system for when you've ordered drinks

Okay, I know what you're thinking...a cup of coffee doesn't take that long to make...but a frappuccino on a busy Monday morning with unmotivated workers behind the counter does. When that happens, it would be nice to have a seat rather than standing their in the way or thinking hey that's my frappuccino when really its someone elses. Efficiency is an awesome thing.

Order ahead

While I've never actually worked at a place where I have had to get a metric ton of coffee for co-workers in the morning, I imagine its probably a terrible experience. And it sucks for everyone behind you in line too, because you actually order more drinks than their are people in line, and that pisses people off and its not actually your fault - its Starbucks fault. We have the internet, we have mobile devices, and information gets transferred at light speed. The designated office coffee person should be able to order via mobile phone, select a time they will pick it up at and submit the order so Starbucks employees can pace themselves and other waiting customers don't have to wait so long. Let's face it, if we've sent a man to the moon we most definitely can figure out a way to make this process easier.

Drink gifting

Let's say you make a bet with a co-worker and that bet involved a cup of coffee for the winner...let's say you're a busy bee who really shouldn't be making bets to begin with because you don't have time to go buy a cup of coffee for the winner, let's say you lose that bet? Well what if you could Bluetooth your co-worker their winnings via your iPhone. I bet that would make your life a whole lot easier wouldn't it loser?

FOOTNOTES
  1. Coffeehouses: Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffeehouse

I love New York for many reasons: the fast pace, the crazy people, the way everything has a charming layer of grime on it, the skyline at night, and the fact that getting anywhere in this city, even though it might take awhile requires minimal attention on my behalf. So as I was walking out of my subway stop this evening at Eastern Parkway - Brooklyn Museum I was delighted to see a valentine's day poem posted on the wall written to MTA.

Given the immense challenge of shuttling 8 million people, I think most of the time the MTA does a pretty good job. It seems whoever wrote this valentine feels the same way. This little valentine brightened my day. To whoever wrote this valentine, you are awesome!

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