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Magazzino Italian Art launches digital borderless platform designed by Synoptic Office: An Interview

New-York based design studio Synoptic Office has launched a new digital borderless platform for Magazzino Italian Art’s. The platform, designed in partnership with New York-based strategic design consultancy, Synoptic Office, gives Magazzino Italian Art borderless capabilities to achieve its ambitious goals for connecting people around the world through contemporary Italian art and culture.

Following a period of immense growth for the museum, Co-Founders Olnick and Spanu aspired to develop an expansive digital strategy that would make Magazzino more accessible for audiences outside of Cold Spring, whilst continuing to support the crucial work done on-site.

With a colour palette inspired by Magazzino’s physical building, the concrete glass – shades of pale gray and white – serve as a backdrop to the vibrant array of art. All design elements reflect Magazzino’s desire to elevate the organisation’s digital presence from touch point to immersive destination. The new platform continues to use timeless typefaces, including Plak Magazzino, a font inspired by Alighiero Boetti’s Manifesto.

t'ART spoke to Synoptic Office’s Founders YuJune Park and Caspar Lam about accessibility in the art world, the creative process of designing a digital space and contemporary Italian art.

What do you think digital platforms and advances can do for the accessibility of the art world?

Advances in digital technology have made it possible for museums and galleries to become truly borderless. We often think of museums as simply places that store and exhibit works. However, that’s just a fraction of what they do. Cultural institutions are also centers of knowledge and stewards of our creative histories. One of their primary responsibilities is digitally preserving works and knowledge about them.

Advances in technology has made it possible to experience art on screen in immersive ways. Works can be brought to life through interweaving with stories, writing, audio, interviews, video, AR/VR, and more.

Everyone should be empowered to experience art—connect with the human stories behind it—whether they have physical access to a museum or not. Our studio’s passion and mission is to help organizations unlock human stories and reveal connections through design, language, and information. We believe in the potential for every museum and gallery to activate its data and institutional archives in ways that resonate personally with audiences. By integrating products, experiences, and spaces with backstage data through thoughtful and beautiful design, organizations can extend their influence beyond physical walls and communicate in new and meaningful ways.

For example, we explored how technology could help viewers experience the Renaissance in new ways in the European Cultural Centre’s Venice 2021 exhibition. We unearthed open source archival images of Renaissance landscape paintings housed in servers around the world to transform them into an immersive experience. “Faraway Places” creates a dreamscape that invites viewers to physically enter the world of Renaissance art, one where imagined architecture and fantastic landscapes come together to present life not as it was but as it was imagined to be. The values of humanism and naturalism and the sheer pleasure of the natural world are celebrated: the warmth of sun, fresh air, and a built environment that reflected the divine.

Visitors encounter one another alongside allegorical figures and mythological characters. In “Faraway Places,” visitors enter a world where the desire to see the divine in the built environment and in nature comes to life. It is an invitation to connect with our deepest longings, to see with our imaginations, and to envision a new future.

And why do you think accessibility is so vital?

Museums share a mandate to share the extraordinary history and ideas imbued in works to the widest possible audience and preserve this knowledge for future generations. New digital technologies allow access to these works in ways that were never previously possible. You can stroll through virtual galleries at The Met from your bedroom or immerse yourself in Renaissance landscape paintings in “Faraway Places,” our installation at Palazzo Mora. Accessibility not only means unlocking a door but also opening it and inviting people for an encounter.

I love that the colour palette of the digital space is inspired by the physical building. Can you tell us a bit about the creative process of designing this digital space?

What struck us the most about Magazzino was that they were both a museum and a research center. These parallel roles were given equal footing.

When we sat down to begin to envision the site, we could see that all the Museum’s initiatives fell into three categories: Learn, Watch, and Visit. Like designing a house, we created three rooms to house these different types of content, all with their own distinct needs.

Learn features Magazzino’s rich library of publications. This section was designed as an online editorial experience where audiences can browse and read books published by Magazzino. Watch highlights videos produced by Magazzino through a seamless online streaming experience. Visit features exhibitions and events, past and present. And, of course, the foundation to all this content production is the museum itself and information about it, which we envisioned as the foundation to the site.

The site utilizes a strong and confident grid that brings uniformity to the design, as well as incredible flexibility through its dynamic panels. It evokes both the structure and palette of Magazzino’s physical building. As a destination, the concrete and glass—shades of pale gray and white—serve as a backdrop to the vibrant array of art within. We believed the site should serve as a pedestal to the work. All design elements reflect Magazzino’s desire to elevate the organization’s digital presence from touch point to immersive destination.

What would you like to say to a UK audience about contemporary Italian art?

"That contemporary Italian art is now more accessible than ever to all audiences. I would like to invite the UK audience who cannot visit Magazzino on a regular basis but would like to learn more about contemporary Italian art, to dig into our Mediateca section where all of our films and videos are available for viewing. We also have a dedicated section for our publications, where readers can learn even more about postwar and contemporary Italian art through essays by leading scholars in the field. And finally, don’t miss the page about our family of Sardinian donkeys who live on the museum's grounds," says Magazzino Italian Art Foundation’s director Vittorio Calabrese.

Can you recommend a few Italian artists for our readers to check out?

Piero Gilardi: His Tappeto-Natura series is extraordinary. It was meant to concretize the dream of an ideal nature, uncontaminated, “recreated” through an artificial material like polyurethane foam, which takes shape through the intaglio (carving) technique and is then saturated with synthetic pigment – at first dissolved in vinyl resin, and later, in rubber latex. His first ever museum exhibition in the US is currently on view at Magazzino Italian Art in Cold Spring, NY.

Mario Merz: In 1945, Mario Merz was arrested for anti-fascist leafleting in Italy. He began to paint in prison. Upon his release, he become a prominent member of the Arte Povera (“Poor Art”) movement utilizing everyday items such as the basket, the pot, the raincoat and organic items such as beeswax and clay in his work.

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