Mapping the world through Art
What would you create with a 10x12 centimeter canvas? That’s the question Luciano Benetton has been asking artists from around the world these past 8 years.
The Imago Mundi art project is a collection of works commissioned and collected by Luciano Benetton on his travels around the world. In return, the Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche reached out to North Kingdom in 2013 with desires to bring the collection to life online that would match it’s [Imago Mundi] social ambition to promote a knowledge and awareness of art and, through this art, of the world.
"It's not a collection but rather an idea that keeps evolving"—Luciano Benetton
START OF SOMETHING BIG
The collaboration between North Kingdom and the Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche is a long lasting one, which started back in spring of 2013, when the project was only accessible through a collection of art books featuring pieces from individual regions around the world.
Those years have seen not only an exponential growth of the collection - from 2,000 to more than 12,000 pieces - but also a substantial change in accessibility - from print to digital. North Kingdom and the Fondazione acknowledged these shifts and responded to such a change with a robust and completely responsive experience that was capable to continue growing while encouraging the public to discover and follow a living catalogue of artwork.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE
Through our creative process, we identified a few new opportunities that would allow the vision of Imago Mundi to reflect today’s culture and soul for the next generations to come. Originally the site was intended for art lovers who want to see the collections, but it evolved to become a place for students, anthropologist, designers, future artists, storytellers, and the Fondazione staff itself.
While working in close collaboration with Mr. Luciano Benetton and the Imago Mundi Team, we have shaped the online collection and their archival process as one. It is designed with the future in mind and is extremely scalable from both a front and back end perspective, since the number of items displayed will expand steadily for many years to come.
Imago Mundi, I realise, is an ambitious project, but I am working hard to make it universal and to generate with this unique mapping a kind of unicum, a strong voice essential to the contemporary world. —Luciano Benetton
With this human-centered approach, the overall experience is centered around the Artworks section, built to suit different types of user journeys. The search box on the top serves those who know what they are looking for and can search for a specific artwork, artist or topic. The filters help refine the search or can be used cumulatively to navigate the artworks. Clicking on one of them opens the dedicated page, aimed to function as a business card for the artist. Every artwork can be zoomed in or flipped to reveal its back side, something very rarely included in an art experience, but that might reveal beautiful surprises…
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION
For the first time, the archivist tag system used internally to classify artworks is now open to the wide public. We brought this forward to help people discover and find artwork by themes.
When a detailed artwork page is open, selecting one tag brings the user to curated set of Artworks, automatically filtered according to that tag so it becomes easy to compare different themes across regions. This non-linear structure compliments the serendipity of free exploration and supports more casual and accessible art navigation, where visitors are open to explore through curiosity across collections, regions and themes.
IMAGE OF THE WORLD
Imago Mundi translates to “image of the world” and has over thousands of works of art and they are all on full display online as a digital art exhibition and digital archive at the same time.
To make the experience more dynamic and playful, the start page of the site is an interactive map that presents the artworks contextually from their region of origin while randomly highlighting select pieces that may entice our audience to explore further.
It’s representation is true to the mission of the Benetton foundation that aims at “mapping the world through art”, an idea generated out of a meeting with the Ecuadorian artist Miguel Betancourt, who gave Mr. Benetton a tiny canvas in lieu of a business card.