ART APP BOOM

With institutions and galleries busily rolling out apps for their art, the tech world is experiencing a little boom in a usually staid market.

MoMA

Release Date: August 12, 2010
Price: Free

This multi-purpose app, published in-house by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, includes a calendar, guidebook, archive, and audio tour. And special features: MoMA Tracks, which allows you to listen to your music—Kanye West, say—while looking at a painting by the likes of Monet, and MoMA Snaps, which enables your phone’s camera to take a picture-postcard. There’s more to come, too. In fact, according to Allegra Burnette, MoMA’s creative director of digital media, the app is still in its development phase. “We’re putting an upgrade plan into place now, with the intention of prioritizing any technical issues that may not have come up in testing first, followed by the implementation of new features as we get more feedback about how people are using the app,” she told the blog The Art Machine.

Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection

Release Date: August 2, 2010
Price: Free

This SFMOMA app—pegged for the museum’s Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection exhibit—is intended for mostly in-house use and features commentary from curators, scholars, and artists, as well as images and an introductory text. As Peter Samis, SFMOMA’s associate curator of interpretation, told The Daily Beast, “It’s really, at this point, intended for visitors to the museum. It’s for people who want to use their personal devices instead of borrowing an audio guide or iPod Touch—and we’re running out of our 200 iPod Touches, up to three times a day on weekends.”

John Baldessari: In Still Life 2001-2010

Released: June 22, 2010
Price: Free

This iPhone app and interactive artwork, In Still Life, 2001-2010, is the mastermind of the California-based conceptual artist John Baldessari, along with For Your Art, a weekly L.A. exhibition-listing website. Launched in conjunction with Pure Beauty, Baldessari’s career retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the app features a still-life painting with a lobster, grapes, melons, candlestick holders, and other objects, which the smart-phone user can move around the screen to create their own piece of digital art. “Rather than being a replacement to the museum, the app is the artwork,” Bettina Korek, founder of For Your Art, told The Daily Beast. “It’s something you can meditate on and spend half an hour playing with.”

Royal Academy of Arts Annual Summer Exhibition

Release Date: June 19, 2010
Price: $5.99

This attractively designed app, created by Toura for the Royal Academy of Arts annual summer exhibition in London, includes introductions to 14 galleries, more than 200 images of exhibited artworks, and 26 video interviews with the artists (such as the British painter Maurice Cokrill) talking about their work.

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers

Release Date: June 14, 2010
Price: $1.99

This Toura-developed app is geared toward the exhibition Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, the first retrospective of the French artist’s work in the U.S. in over 30 years, on display fromMay 20 to September 12, 2010, at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. The app features video footage assembled from an hour-long film shown at the museum, images of the displayed works, and quotes from Klein himself. As Hirshhorn’s director Richard Koshalek told The Washington Post, the app is intended “to give our visitors and art fans globally an interactive way to experience this one-of-a-kind exhibition.”

The Art 41 Basel Show Guide

Release Date: June 12, 2010
Price: Free

This simple, sleek app for Art Basel—the first created for an international art show, according to The New York Observer—features a list of galleries, artists, exhibitions, and events, which are searchable by name and location. There’s also a 3D-map with zoom- and orbit-transition options, contact information for galleries—an important feature, no doubt, for an art fair—and a bookmark button so visitors can keep track of their favorite artists, galleries, and artworks.

Tate Trumps

Release Date: June 1, 2010
Price: Free

This fun, entertainment-based app, created in-house by the Tate Museum in London, features digital card games to be played by visitors using the museum’s exhibited artworks. In “Battle” mode, you try to pick the most menacing-looking works—something like Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) perhaps—to try to “trump” softer pieces— van Gogh’s Farms near Auvers (1890), say. In “Mood” mode, you match themes on the basis of whether the works feel “exhilarating,” “menacing,” or “absurd.” In “Collector” mode, you pick the pieces from the Tate’s collection you would most want to own. “It’d be better if you didn’t have to visit the Tate to get the full flavor of the app,” writes Gizmodo’s Kat Hannaford, “but it’s a really sweet attempt by a museum to insert itself into the 21st century, apps and all.”

Carsten Nicolai: Moiré

Release Date: May 21, 2010
Price: $0.99

This app was designed specifically for the German artist Carsten Nicolai’s exhibit Moiré, which was on display at The Pace Gallery from May 21 to June 25, 2010. The app features photos of the installation, a brief biography of the artist, and audio podcasts. “The Carsten Nicolai app, I think, would be interesting to the people who couldn’t make the show,” David Grosz, who heads up The Pace Gallery’s mobile initiatives, told The Daily Beast. “It wouldn’t add anything to the experience of people who had seen the show. It’s really just a digital tour.”

Quilts 1700-2010: V&A

Release Date: March 26, 2010
Price: $3.99

This app, made for in-gallery use at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Quilts 1700-2010 exhibit in London, provides a close-up look at the art of quilt making. Created by Antenna Audio—a company, it should be noted, that’s known for producing handheld audio tours—it includes audio commentaries and video clips with quilting experts, V&A curators, and textile artists (such as Grayson Perry), as well as high-resolution images of the artworks, including Tracey Emin’s To Meet My Past.

From El Greco to Dalí (HD)

Release Date: March 4, 2010
Price: $3.99

This app’s intended as a guide to the From El Greco to Dalí: The Great Spanish Masters exhibit at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris, which was on display from March 2 to August 1, 2010. Available in both French and English, it features a guided tour of the exhibition and audio commentary covering over 20 works of art. “I hope more museums take advantage of this app,” Viki Gonia wrote on Appolicious.com, “because I won’t be heading to Paris before the exhibition ends.”

SFMOMA Rooftop Sculpture Garden

Release Date: January 7, 2010
Price: Free

Available for both iPhone and iPad, this breakthrough app—designed as an interactive guide of SFMOMA’s rooftop sculpture garden—features interviews with SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra, the rooftop’s architects, and the people who created the garden’s coffee bar. Also included: commentary about the sculptures, the space’s initial drawing plans, and a Twitter feature, which allows you to post about your favorite artworks. “We thought of this app as a prototype,” Peter Samis, SFMOMA’s associate curator of interpretation, told The Daily Beast. “It was a foot in the water. We found what works, what doesn’t. We had built Twitter into the audio-tour part, and there was a slow uptake initially. There weren’t enough tweets to make it interesting. It was a test. We’ll figure out another way to use Twitter in the future.”

Musée du Louvre

Release Date: November 5, 2009
Price: Free

This massive app is, not surprisingly, for a massive museum—Paris’ Musée du Louvre—and rightfully features tons of content. Statues, furniture, sculptures, drawings, and paintings—these are just a selection of the many works featured in the Louvre’s app. Gallery maps, audio podcasts, and texts about the works—Caravaggio, Rubens, and Goya among them—are included, too. “It’s packed with enough info about its famous paintings to make you feel like you’re there on a private tour,” writes Lisa Hoover on Lifehacker.com.

Yours, Vincent: The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Release Date: October 15, 2009
Price: Free

This app, developed by Pentimento (an Antenna Audio platform), takes selections from the exhibit Yours, Vincent: The Letters of Vincent van Gogh at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Available in Dutch and English, the app shows some of the exhibit’s 300 works—paintings, drawings, letters, and sketches—and includes dramatic readings of the letters, as well as video interviews with the museum’s experts.

Love Art: National Gallery, London

Release Date: July 21, 2009
Price: $2.99

This iPhone app, developed by Antenna Audio, features more that 250 works—Leonardo, Renoir, Rembrandt, and van Gogh among them—from the National Gallery in London. Also included are brief histories about some of the artists, with video and audio clips from experts and critics, and high-resolution images of the art. Another feature is the app’s “Insight” mode, which allows you to find works based on, among other topics, “Honesty,” “Vanity,” “Devotion,” “Torment,” and “Power.” “It could prove to be the best art book never published,” knowyourcell.com writes of the app. “It’s not quite there yet, but it’s still a great download to get you in the mood for a visit to the gallery itself.”

Brooklyn Museum Mobile

Release Date: April 2009
Price: Free

This forward-thinking Brooklyn Museum app, designed by Caravan Interactive, evolved dramatically from its barebones inception in early 2009. Within seven months, the app featured full listings of upcoming events and exhibitions, archives from the collection, various search options, and geotagging. Still, it was a rough sketch of the many arts-institution apps to come. “Truth be told, it’s nothing to write home about,” Artnet News wrote after its third release. No matter. The museum eventually launched another innovative—and unprecedented—smart-phone program called BklynMuse, which automatically generates itineraries for visitors based on selections of artworks that interest them.