For nine months, starting in April, the entire museum will be given over to the exhibit, entitled "The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000," Whitney officials and Intel (Nasdaq:INTC) Chairman Andy Grove said in a joint press conference.
The project also calls for the museum, in collaboration with Intel, to use the Internet to deliver a century's worth of data about the visual arts in America to computer users around the world. The company and the museum also plan to integrate Intel's technology into the museum's permanent displays and collaborate on a curriculum so that teachers can use the exhibit in wired classrooms to teach about the arts and U.S. history. Exact details of the curriculum have not been finalized, officials said.
"What the printing press did for the reach of the printed word, digitally connected computers are likely to do for the world of art."
-- Andy Grove, Intel chairman
A future trip to a European venue is also in the works, but plans have not been finalized.
"This is not just a survey, but a chronicle of the changing American identity over the last century," Anderson said. "It reveals how a nation has seen itself through a search for identity and how that search has been reflected in the visual arts."
Grove: Whitney project 'very alluring'
Grove, himself a native of Hungary, said the exhibit will highlight the contributions of immigrants to American art, culture and commerce. "The logic behind Intel's doing this lies with the Whitney's vision of what the American century is," Grove said.
"Intel itself lives and dies on the work of immigrants. And, in a day when there is great concern about immigration, it's necessary to take a stand on this issue."
At the same time, as computing has become more visually oriented, society has become more closely connected through computers, Grove said. Intel decided to help fund the project because the idea of using computers and the Internet to bring American art history to a mass audience was "very alluring," he said.
"What the printing press did for the reach of the printed word, digitally connected computers are likely to do for the world of art," Grove said.
In a demonstration, museum officials showed how an Internet user can view an image of a painting from various perspectives, while at the same time watching a video about its creation and being able to link to further information about the artist and other works.
Asked whether making the arts accessible in this way will make people less likely to go to museums, SF MOMA director David Ross said the opposite might be true.
"We're hoping this will help break down some of the barriers that keep people away from museums, allowing them to learn and become less intimidated," Ross said. "People didn't seem to stop going to concerts because of the advent of recorded music," he added.
The total cost of the exhibit has not yet been determined, but the Whitney is using Intel's $6 million "as a starting point," Anderson said.