Remember how online art used to be one of ballyhooed features of our new and improved lives on the Internet? We talked of visiting faraway museums, browsing rarely seen masterpieces, hyper-annotated with curatorial notes and historical contexts. Similarly enticing was the promise of new media and art site-specific to the Internet

The reality in 1999 isn't so intoxicating. While progress can be seen, the online branches of many museums have done little more than digitize catalogs, which are fine for archiving but poor for expanding our interaction with art. And while virtual salons for artistic digerati abound and hybrids such at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center, Tokyo's InterCommunication Center and Karlsruhe's Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie are definitely headed in the right direction, the Web has yet to produce a Guggenheim for new media. There is no Sistine Chapel for the digital-era Michelangelo.

A few problems common to other areas of the Net plague the online art world. The obvious one is financing. Conventional sites can try to subsist on advertising, but who wants an ad for cluttering his view of the Mona Lisa? Similarly, in the hierarchy of funding, cyber projects are given low priority, and Web-specific artworks aren't exactly collectible (at least not in the current mode of thinking).