In 1995, the Whitney Museum acquired its first work of Internet art, Douglas Davis’ The World’s First Collaborative Sentence. Commissioned by the Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, New York, in conjunction with “Interactions,” its 1994 survey exhibition of the artist’s work, Sentence is an ongoing textual and graphic performance on the World Wide Web that is owned by the Whitney Museum but was maintained on the Lehman website from 1994 – 2005.
“The Sentence owes its life to the Lehman College Art Gallery, which commmissioned it in the fall of 1994. Susan Hoeltzel, the director, saw it as a logical if not necessary step out of “interactions,” the exhibition she had just organized at the college. Suddenly the college got access to a server, rare in those days, making a new website possible. When she asked me to do this my first thought was: the keyboard. As my first thought about video had been the gently rounded screen. The sentence and everything about it spun out of that moment; it is still spinning. When Eugene and Barbara Schwartz bought the sentence for their collection and later gave it to the Whitney (during David Ross’ tenure), the work gained an even larger audience. Museums and universities and art galleries make audiences not merely possible but probable.”