Gallery of Lost Art website reveals the stories of missing artworks

Glasgow-based consultancy ISO has created the Gallery of Lost Art, a website launched by Channel 4 and Tate that draws together lost artworks.

Gallery of Lost Art
Gallery of Lost Art

The site, which went live this morning, displays art works that have been lost, stolen or destroyed and reveals the stories behind them. Among the artists whose work is on show are Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, Rachel Whiteread , Tracey Emin and Willem de Kooning, whose drawing was erased by Robert Rauschenberg in 1953 to create Erased de Kooning.

Gallery of Lost Art
Gallery of Lost Art

Mark Breslin, ISO co-founder, says, ‘The brief was quite undefined. They wanted something more exploratory and didn’t want a traditional way of navigating content. They wanted it to become an experience so it was about trying to translate a physical space onto an online website.’

The virtual exhibition will be in place for only a year, after which it too will be ‘lost’. It features Archival images, films, interviews, blogs and essays, revealing the evidence relating to the loss of works by over 40 artists across the 20th century. The site also aims to provide a platform for interaction, and discussion around the subject of lost art.

Gallery of Lost Art
Gallery of Lost Art

While some works are lost by accident, such as Tracey Emin’s embroidered tent – famously destroyed in the 2004 fire at the Momart storage warehouse; some are ‘lost’ very deliberately. There’s the aforementioned Erased de Kooning, of course, and also some destroyed Goya work – defaced by Jake and Dinos Chapman, who buy early nineteenth-century Goya etchings and then draw over them.

Jake Chapman says, ‘We decided to draw on Goya. The point of Goya making the work was about wide dissemination … but what we’re doing is rarifying the work by drawing on it, so we can deplete the numbers that are available.’

Gallery of Lost Art
Gallery of Lost Art

The site is launching with 20 works initially, and 20 more will be added over the next six months, with a new piece going live each week. These will be added to coincide with events such as artists’ birthdays or the date the work was made where possible.

Breslin adds, ‘It’s got a sort of forensic, on-going investigation look. Unlike a gallery there’s a freeform hierarchy with the works – you can just wander through them. It didn’t have to have a consistency so the descriptions can be as small or large as they need to be.

‘We’re trying to get a sense of narrative. The environment’s quite restrained so the content can stand out.’

Gallery of Lost Art
Gallery of Lost Art

Jennifer Mundy, curator of The Gallery of Lost Art, says, ‘Museums normally tell stories through the objects they have in their collections. But this exhibition focuses on significant works that cannot be seen.  It explores the potential of the digital realm to bring these lost artworks back to life – not as virtual replicas but through the stories surrounding them.’

The site is curated by Tate, and produced in partnership with Channel 4, with additional support from The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), though the design is created to standalone, with only the logos of the participating bodies showing their branding.

ISO was appointed to the project about a year ago by Channel Four following a five-way creative pitch. It has previously worked on projects such as the Random Acts short-film site for the channel. You can view the site at galleryoflostart.com.

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