If the masses won’t come to the art ...

As art and computer technology are increasingly hitched, the Orange County Museum of Art aims to provide the couple with a permanent abode -- a new exhibition space at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, one of the region’s most heavily trafficked shopping malls.

The Media Lounge, as it is dubbed, is scheduled to open July 1. The idea, museum Director Dennis Szakacs says, is to give artists who create with computers and video a showcase in surroundings where potential digital-age viewers might be induced to congregate.

“The museum wants to make new media a regular part of what it does,” says Szakacs, whom the Newport Beach-based OCMA hired last year from the New Museum of Contemporary Art in Manhattan. As deputy director there, Szakacs helped create the Zenith Media Lounge, which opened in 2000 and is billed as “New York City’s only museum space dedicated to new media.”

Orange County already has a museum given over solely to new media. Beall Center for Art and Technology, a research institute and exhibition space at UC Irvine that opened in 2000, is just a few miles from South Coast Plaza. But instead of waging a turf battle, the institutions have embarked on a policy of mutual aid that its leaders say will involve cooperative marketing, fundraising and collaborating on exhibitions.


When the Media Lounge opens, OCMA will close its longtime retail store and satellite gallery at the opposite end of South Coast Plaza, where the big neighboring attraction is the mall’s kiddie carousel.

-- Mike Boehm