Hirshhorn uses groundbreaking Yves Klein exhibit for first iPhone app

Handheld exhibit: The
Handheld exhibit: The "Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers" app is a scholarly tour of the artist's life and work. (Washington Post Photo Illustration)
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By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To demonstrate its commitment to technology, the Smithsonian Institution introduced Monday an Apple iPhone application for its groundbreaking retrospective of artist Yves Klein.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where "Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers" is showing, is the first of the Smithsonian's art museums to test its audience's appetite for an immediate, handheld experience. The National Museum of Natural History last month introduced an iPhone application in which the user can see what they might have looked like a few millennium ago. The facial-morphing station is a light-hearted attraction that is a popular feature of permanent exhibition "Human Origins," which opened in March.

The Smithsonian has wholeheartedly joined the stampede to be virtually fashionable and accessible. The complex, which began in the mid-19th century and is rooted in the country's scientific explorations, has been updating its Web presence and has set aside $2 million in its budget for digitization efforts. Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough has said this outreach is a priority. The Smithsonian has more than 300 blogs from its museums and centers and has introduced many exhibitions and programs through popular social networking channels.

Natural History tagged its application the "MEanderthal," which is like a funhouse game. The Klein app is a scholarly tour of the artist's life and output. Neither app walks you through the actual exhibition, but they give a taste of what to expect at the museum.

The Klein application, developed with Toura, a company that specializes in mobile guides, benefits greatly from the artist's decision to film everything he did. Assembled from an hour-long film shown at the museum, the material is organized in segments with biographical information and examinations of Klein's process during his brief career, from 1954 to 1962, in which he became one of the 20th century's most influential artists. Included are demonstrations of his first experiment with "Fire Paintings" and his signature blue monochromes, as well as other works.

"We launched the Yves Klein iPhone application to give our visitors and art fans globally an interactive way to experience this one-of-a-kind exhibition," said Richard Koshalek, director of the Hirshhorn.

The museum is sharing revenue with Toura, according to the museum. The Klein overview can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store for 99 cents for two weeks, after which it will be $1.99.

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