YouTube as Fine Art?

In the latest high art/pop culture mash-up, the Guggenheim and YouTube have joined forces to create an exhibit that celebrates and examines online video. Yesterday, the museum announced the 125 finalists for the installation “YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video.” The videos were culled from more than 23,000 submissions from 91 countries. Beginning today, the videos can be viewed at kiosks in Guggenheim museums around the world, as well as online at the playbiennial channel. An eclectic jury, including Takashi Murakami and the music group Animal Collective, will whittle the final choices down to 20, which will be displayed at the Guggenheim New York from October 21-24.

Since the announcement of the collaboration in July, many people have balked at the idea of YouTube videos being placed in the same realm as Kandinsky and Louise Bourgeouis. In an informational video about the exhibit, Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector says, “We are always interested in how to reach the broadest possible audience. We don’t create a hierarchy here among mediums. We don’t have departments dedicated to drawing or painting or sculpture. It’s a museum of contemporary and modern art, but I always like to think that it’s always been a museum of the new.”

Now that the finalists have been unveiled, it’s clear that there is some real talent among the work submitted. These aren’t videos of piano-playing cats or teenage boys pranking their friends. I haven’t watched all the videos (125 is a lot! Especially when many of them run more than five minutes in length), but I posted one of my favorites below. It was created in response to the dramatic beautification plan that overtook Shanghai in anticipation of hosting the World Expo this year.

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