Hill Talk: Hirshhorn Develops an Appropriate App for Klein

Posted June 9, 2010 at 4:14pm

If modern art deals with throwing aside tradition in favor of experimentation, then it stands to follow that art promoters should do the same. In that spirit, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum has developed an iPhone application touting its newest show, “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers.”

Sharing the show’s name, the app offers handheld quotes, videos and photos of the French artist and his work to accompany the retrospective. It is the first app created for a Smithsonian art museum.

Jennifer Rossi, the gallery’s webmaster, said it works especially well for an exhibit focused on Klein, who died in 1962 but left behind copious written explanations of his work and videotaped himself creating it.

“I thought it would be really great to pilot it for the Yves Klein exhibition because there is so much great content,” she said. “I think people want to learn more about the art. You get a very visual reaction looking at it.”

The exhibition also has accompanying Twitter, Facebook and YouTube feeds where curators post videos and quotes in order to preserve Klein’s spirit throughout the exhibit’s run, as Hirshhorn Deputy Director Kerry Brougher put it.

The app features a biographical timeline and is organized like a tour through the show. In addition to art images, there’s insight into the means and methods behind the signature blue monochromes, fire paintings and anthropometries that made Klein one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

Ideally, museum visitors could carry their iPhones through the exhibit and access Klein’s own explanations rather than having to guess his intent.

“I also think it works really well stand-alone,” Rossi said. “So people who aren’t here, people who are offsite, can experience the exhibition.”

The Yves Klein app follows the Natural History Museum’s app, “MEanderthal,” which mimics a popular feature of the new “Human Origins” exhibit, letting iPhone users take pictures of themselves and morph them into Neanderthals.