The old adage says that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” but the folks at the Bata Museum in Toronto, Canada, would probably say it is in the foot.

The Bata Shoe Museum, whose tagline is “For the curious,” houses an astonishing 12,500 shoes and shoe paraphernalia covering over 4,500 years’ worth of human history.  From chestnut-crushing shoes to high heels for the men of the French court, the expansive collection is continually growing as a result of shoe-hunting excursions conducted by Bata Museum staff on a regular basis.

What makes this museum of interest to this blogger is the sheer amount of information and time they have invested in their website.  In the “All About Shoes” section the web visitor can select several different collections to view, from footwear of the Native Americans to a history about elevated shoes to wedding wear and more.

If you would like a shoe expert or curator to spend some time talking to you about the who, where, what, why, and hows of the shoe world, check out their dozens of podcasts on a variety of topics.  From dance shoes to wartime footwear and, yes, Justin Bieber’s sneakers, the Bata Shoe Museum has something for almost everyone (even Napoleon’s socks).

With hundreds of detailed and colorful photos, this visitor learned that high heels used to be closer to the center of the foot because early models did not have reinforced heels.  When they placed heels on the actual heels, the shoes kept snapping off at the arch.  I also learned that men used to wear high heels ostensibly because they helped them better keep their feet in the stirrups while horseriding.  I also found interesting that early heeled shoes came with sled-like clog contraptions that you could tie on to your shoes.  Why?  Because heeled shoes were invented before roads were paved, and wearers in heels would get stuck in the mud without them.

The Bata Shoe Museum is definitely “for the curious,” but I would also say that their website is so well done and so engaging that they could even claim that their museum will make you curious.

One of the most difficult things an artist can face is finding an audience that is interested in her/his work.  Saatchi Gallery in London, UK is attempting to remedy this millenium-long problem.  Using the internet, Saatchi Gallery created Saatchi Online, providing both artists and art lovers with access to people around the globe.  Artists can register with Saatchi Online to display their work, and curators working for Saatchi Gallery create online galleries by topic, medium, and more.

These curated online galleries highlight the value of diverse art chosen well with the added benefit of mass access.  Viewers can purchase original works or prints of works, or simply troll the beautiful, shocking, unusual, and fantastical galleries that are free for visitors.  Once you click on a piece of art, thumbnails of other works by the same artist appear on the side of your screen, giving you the option of viewing even more.  Visitors can also create their own online galleries by selecting their favorite works.  To participate further, viewers can vote in the Saatchi Online Showdown.  Works by submitted artists are randomly paired, and viewers vote in the first round.  Winners in the second and third rounds are decided by a jury and judge respectively.  Lovers of all types of art will find something to appreciate in Saatchi Online, and a visit to this British internet creation can be an excellent way to kill an afternoon.

This post brought to you by Liza, our newest blogger!

Welcome to the first installment of the The Discerning Palette, a new blog series about the online art world. In the news this week is the art of Tony Bennett. Yes, that Tony Bennett. When he’s not crooning, Mr. Bennett enjoys painting watercolors. His art can be viewed and purchased through his website, Benedetto Arts. Benedetto is Mr. Bennett’s original family name and how he signs his paintings. Mr. Bennett has done commission pieces for the Kentucky Derby and the United Nations and has works in the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery. He has also lectured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This week Mr. Bennett’s art is in the news due to a photo shoot with Lady Gaga and famed celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Gaga and Leibovitz were shooting for an upcoming Vanity Fair issue and Mr. Bennett was invited to sketch Lady Gaga. The charcoal sketch of Lady Gaga is being auctioned off for Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and Bennett’s Exploring the Arts charity. For other Bennett/Gaga collaborations, check out their duet of “The Lady is a Tramp”from the Rogers and Hart musical “Babes in Arms” which is featured on Bennett’s new Duets II CD.