ikono: Fine Art TV

Vanessa Remoquillo meets Berlin’s fine art broadcaster, ikono

While some people have shunned television completely, art initiative ikono from Berlin has chosen instead to harness the medium to bring fine art into everyday life.

Started in 2005 by Elizabeth Markevitch, ikono operates two channels — ikonoTV and ikonoMenasa — that broadcast art around-the-clock without sound or narrative.

Markevitch describes watching a typical ikono program as staring at “a living painting on your wall”. The camera pans leisurely, meticulously, even sensuously over a painting, sculpture, or installation, taking its time, zooming in on the smallest details and devoting precious seconds, even whole minutes, to those that might otherwise escape the viewer.

It may appear that the scene is completely unchanged, that nothing is happening on your television. And yet it is precisely in these moments that one grows new eyes with which to see this piece of art. “An artist or an art historian, critic or curator dealing with exhibitions basically has two ways to display,” explains Markevitch, “the exhibition space and the catalogue. Ikono offers to the art world a third way. Every film is, in fact, a visual experience prepared by a professional, who, instead of explaining the work, shows you where to look.”

Working with the world’s biggest museums, ikono’s team introduces new content every week to its playlists on ikonoTV, broadcast in Germany, and ikonoMenasa, accessible throughout the 22 countries of the Arab League, Israel, and Spain. The channels respectively reach two million households in Germany and 28 million throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

While both feature fine art, ikonoTV is attuned to European tastes and sensibilities, while ikonoMenasa carries culturally sensitive and family-friendly content. The fine art TV broadcaster envisions expanding to include Switzerland, France, and Italy in its coverage within the year.

Markevitch believes that pleasure is a powerful element that draws people to art. “People often experience pleasure looking at art. Yet pleasure in art is often totally forgotten. We are going to show you how to look at it, how to go completely into it, to really deepen your experience even more. If you don’t know how to look at a painting, you might miss details.”

What ikono strives to do, through television, is to create that glimpse of pleasure, or ignite the spark of interest that leads even the uninitiated viewer to want to learn more about the artwork.

Their website, ikono.org, bridges that interest with information, providing helpful links about the artwork, the artist, literature on the subject, and even listings of exhibitions and venues where the artwork may be viewed.

Equally noteworthy is the website’s Art On Demand, which makes available unique and exquisite art and design pieces, as well as high-quality films for downloading into a digital device.

For Slow Art Day 2012 (28 April), ikono will feature a playlist befitting the celebration by highlighting old and contemporary miniatures and calligraphy, presented in ikono’s signature style of leisurely and deliberate exploration. You can also check out the live stream on their website, or their You Tube channel.

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