How technology is shaping the artworld.

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Update on the app progress: ArtGuru will now notify you with push notifications about upcoming exhibitions and news in the artworld. You can download the app here: http://artguru.me/app


Last week I have been discussing the impact of the tech industry on the arts in terms of its curatorial implications. That left me wondering how the tech industry is affecting the artist itself. If you follow us on Twitter (if you don’t than you should now), than you may have seen the article we have shared by Shutterstock. I went on to research digital art and got intrigued how artists include technology into their art making process.

As mentioned in other post before, our lives are revolving around what we can and can’t do with the help of technology. So it was only a matter of time before artists picked up on new technologies in their creating process.

Last year Conrad Bodman curated Digital Revolution at the Barbican in London. Alongside devices I remembered from my childhood, like the original Game Boy and the first Sims, the exhibition showcased new pieces by artists who are actively engaged with digital technologies. One example are The Treachery of Sanctuary by Chris Milk. Rather than putting the visitor in the role of the observer, he becomes part of the art. Here, digital technology creates a stage, turning everyone and everything into art. There is also the aspect of originality. No two artworks will ever be the same. As soon as you step from the stage, the art is gone with you.

There are other approaches in cooperating digital data into art. The artists duo Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead are using news and RSS feeds, reshape them and by doing so creating art pieces representing our modern world. In an interview with Deezen, Thomson says something that, I feel, is the most important aspect of working with digital technologies: “ […] we’re just artists that work within the contemporary art context [with] all of the kinds of concerns that we share with artists that might be working sculpturally or might be working with paint, or any kind of material.”

And we might not be aware of this, but we all do create art on a daily basis. Instagram and Snapchat for example are turning us into artists, sharing our work globally (or only for 10 seconds for that matter). A good example is this guy. You can follow him on Twitter too.

Norwegian graphic designer Geir Ove Pedersen and his Snapchat Art

 

 

And he is only one example of the artists we have to watch out for. With the introduction of social media digital artists, or artists in general, can work more independently. We don’t have to rely anymore on curators and the big names in the artworld to tell us what is good and what is bad art. If we don’t like it, we won’t share it.

And this is not only a huge advantage for us, but also for communities who are not fortunate enough to receive any kind of funding or other financial recognition. The Atlanta Blackstar has recently published an article highlighting the importance of digital technology for African Artists. With the introduction of broadband and fiber-optic in many African towns, it is now possible for artists to get their work out there. That does not only make them accessible for their local audience, but can spread their work globally. The art-market, once hugely concentrated on leading art galleries and experts, is now open to a new kind of audience and curating style.

But despite the advantages it is providing us with, there is already the feeling out there that technology will estranges us from ourselves.  If we are stuck, we are looking for an app to help us and our smartphone is entertaining us during the hours of our morning commute. But as Papermag put it: digital technology can be both, a gods end and a soul sucker. The Eyebeam’s 2015 art and technology showcase tried to put the humanized side of technology in the foreground. And if you want to reclaim your privacy, Allison Burtch has just got the right thing for you: a small box that cuts out cellphone frequency, turning every conversation quiet.

But where else can digital lead us? I have shortly mentioned in the last blog post the artist Olafur Eliasson. He has taken what technology is offering us to generate a social impact with his invention called Little Sun. Little Sun is a solar lamp in the shape of a sunflower, creating light where there is no access to other forms of electricity. Its success does heavily rely on donations and is therefore an artwork sponsored by the public.

And there is certainly more out there. Digital becomes a new material for the artists while creating new ways of how the audience can engage with art. And it is only a matter of time until the major galleries and museums will acknowledge this art form and actively support it.

 

 

Selfie-Stick or no Selfie-Stick – that is apparently a big question.

I recently came across a commentary by Jonathan Jones on the Guardian website about the banning of selfie sticks in museums in the US. Now, if you follow Jones, you know he is not holding back about his opinion as an art critic, but this time he has touched a pretty sensitive topic: how should one experience art? And more crucial: with what?

lady with selfie

His commentary comes at a time when discussions are reaching boiling point about one device that got suddenly popular after last Christmas: The selfie-stick.

The selfie-stick has divided the nation, like no other invention during the last years. It became the Marmite of our digital world: you either love it or hate it. If you live in London and walked through central in the last couple of weeks, you have seen them: individuals or groups taking selfies in front of London’s attraction with selfie sticks. You can argue that the selfie stick is just another physical add-on to photography enthusiast, just like the extra lenses and tiny tripods. But never have I seen such a discussion on- and offline about a simple plastic stick.

The selfie-stick started out as a novelty. One of these presents you rather hide at home but are still kind of intrigued to use. Sales went rocket high during last Christmas, and out of a sudden, the once so embarrassing selfie sticks are popping up everywhere. And with them the restrictions of using them.

During the last week, leading museums in the USA have banned visitors from using selfie sticks, three weeks after the very successful #Museumselfie day in January. But the digital officer of the Met Museums in New York assured in an interview with Mashable that they are not against selfies, just against selfie sticks. Using your arm is still allowed. And along comes the question: How do we experience art in an age of such fast paced technological developments? And what is right and what is wrong?

Jones writes in his commentary that “There is nothing wrong with the traditional idea of the museum as a place of hushed severity” and that “museums should ban, one by one, all the contemporary intrusions that disrupt the authority of great art, from photography to loudmouthed tour guides.”

But can museums do that? And should they? Taking pictures in museums goes along strict policies. In central Europe, Germany for example, taking pictures in museums is still forbidden. So by allowing visitors to take pictures, have museums over here already opened up to the new developments of our time?

Paintings have become celebrities in their own right. Every major museum is having at least one Blockbuster exhibition every year, trying to draw in the masses with names they are familiar with: Warhol, Rubens, Picasso, Polke. Artists, they feel, everyone needs to see at least once in their life. (Something we could discuss in length all over again).  But how much can we take home with us? The feeling, the emotions, we felt when looking at a print of the Campbell Soup? Or something more tangible? Maybe a photo we took, with or without ourselves on it. Something we can share once we are at home, on social media platforms, with our relatives all over the world: We were here.

And that is when ArtGuru came along. We encourage everyone to take pictures in museums wherever they can and wherever they are allowed to do so. And we understand the social aspect of visiting a museums. Unlike Jones, we feel art is active, alive and does not need ultimate silence to be enjoyed. If the artist listened to Jazz, then why don’t we? If we feel touched by a painting, why not share it? (with or without your own face on it). ArtGuru can make just that possible, while still recognising the artist and title of the picture. And for that you don’t need a selfie-stick. That still works ‘manual’.

We won’t change that.

 

We go online offline

It has been an exciting and interesting past week. But also cold. Mostly cold. We are grateful that art pop-ups are a thing of the summer and that the exhibitions we have visited are inside. In the warmth. Mostly.

So what did happen this week? First of all: The guys from Create-Hub, and mainly Samuel Fry, gave us the opportunity to publish our journey on their online platform. That gave us not only the chance to re-cap on our journey so far but to also explain in detail how ArtGuru actually works. Everything that does not fit into the 140 characters on Twitter. You can find the article here: http://bit.ly/1K322p2 .

Make sure that you have a flick through their other articles as it gives you a pretty good insight in what is happening currently in terms of digital technology in the art world. We will be reflecting on this during the next couple of weeks, showing you what is going on in our art and technology bubble.

If you have read our article you might have had a read-through through our challenges that we had to overcome in order to be where we are now. And I can assure you: we are nearly there. There are some more changes to come in the following weeks. If you are one of our beta-testers you might have noticed the latest update: the offline version. There is no longer the need to hold up your device in front of the painting, risking a numb arm in the process (or successful work-out, we are still in the new-year’s resolution mood). Just point ArtGuru on the picture you like, wait until the red ArtMinions are all over the painting, tap on the screen and the app will take a picture for you. If you are online, the image will be send to our servers, analysed and in a matter of seconds you will have the results, without waiting in front of the picture. We still do encourage you however to take a closer look of the painting anyway. It gives you the chance to discover things you didn’t see before.

If you, for example, are at any point at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, have a look at this painting, called Netherlandish Proverbs from Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559 – Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Netherlandish Proverbs, 1559 – Pieter Bruegel the Elder

 

Quiet an innocent scene you might think. Well, if you have a minute, start counting the *ahem* backsides you will see in this painting and let us know your answer.* Every painting is worth a closer look.

But back to topic.

If you are in a museum that doesn’t have WiFi and you don’t have any data plan with your phone, ArtGuru now also works offline. Just take a snap of the painting you want to have in your personal gallery and ArtGuru will detect when you are online again. It will send the images to our servers and you will get notified with a little icon on the top of the page that the artist and the title has been recognised. Easy as chips, as they might say here.

If you have an iPod like me, running iOS7 or higher and you were worried until now that you might not be able to use it in galleries, I can assure you the newest update changed it totally. I can now tour museums like the Courtauld Gallery, which doesn’t have Wifi, take pictures of the paintings I like and want to share, and later, in one of the famous green coffee houses with Wifi, I can have a flick through my newest collection.

The whole process is shown below, using van Gogh as an example, as the art world does so often. And even better. Once you took a snapshot it does not mean you will have to live forever with that slightly blurred “this other person pushed me” picture. You can take it again, even after ArtGuru already recognised the painting, and it will automatically replace it if you push the like button. No more share embarrassment. (Though we can’t guarantee that for any other pictures you take).

van gogh

 

 

We will keep you updated on when and where the final version of ArtGuru will be available for everyone. Until then, if you want to have a play around, here is the usual drill: email info@artguru.me and go exploring.

 

 

* We don’t have an answer. We are still counting ourselves. But we were assured by experts that there are more than 100.

 

 

One day with the VIP’s of London

A very exciting week lies behind us. We were out taking selfies with the Windsor’s at the National Portrait Gallery, we were continuing our cat trail and were amazed by the Surrealists at the Tate Modern.

With all these impressions we thought we will start poetic into the new week. Can you guess with which famous person we started our hunt for famous Londoners?

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

No, we did not turn our focus on bigger felines. Are the bells ringing? Yes, we have been visiting William Blake, known not just for one of his most famous poem “The Tyger”. And where else would we find him than at the National Portrait Gallery, London?

William Blake by Thomas Phillips oil on canvas, 1807 On display in Room 18 at the National Portrait Gallery NPG 212

William Blake by Thomas Phillips
oil on canvas, 1807
On display in Room 18 at the National Portrait Gallery

He is sharing Room Number 18 with another rather famous literary person. (Who he looks rather scared at) Can you guess by the quote below?

“The world to me was a secret, which I desired to discover; to her it was a vacancy, which she sought to people with imaginations of her own.”

Not quiet? Maybe something more obvious?

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”

Of course we are talking about Mary Shelley and her novel Frankenstein.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley by Richard Rothwell oil on canvas, exhibited 1840

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
by Richard Rothwell
oil on canvas, exhibited 1840

And because the best things come in threes: Who am I to forget THE most famous writer of the UK? I’ll make it easy this time to avoid any reminiscing of past school days.

“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

Yes, Shakespeare is part of our personal ArtGuru collection. Maybe he is asking that questions about himself too.By the way, the snazzy golden earring he is wearing is a status symbol (different to what we might think today). It was also used to blog the entry holes of the body from the evil spirits.

 

associated with John Taylor oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1600-1610

associated with John Taylor
oil on canvas, feigned oval, circa 1600-1610

After all this literature we felt like something more down to earth. So we went for someone who took us the fear of being in a plane during a thunderstorm. (I can only speak for myself here). Michael Faraday. Born in the now London Borough of Southwark, Faraday went on to become one of the most regarded scientists in his field.

Michael Faraday by Thomas Phillips oil on canvas, 1841-1842

Michael Faraday
by Thomas Phillips
oil on canvas, 1841-1842

Faraday’s portrait is hanging right next to another scientist. The Scottish chemist Thomas Graham, who died in London in 1869. He was the founder of the Chemical Society in London and the one who discovered dialysis.

Thomas Graham by Wilhelm Trautschold oil on canvas, 1850-1875

Thomas Graham by Wilhelm Trautschold
oil on canvas, 1850-1875

 

 

Our last stop before heading out into the London fog are the leaders of the country. On the 24th of January it was his 50th anniversary of his death. To follow the route of this blog I have seem to have taken, here is a quote:

“I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”

It is not this guy from last weekend who thought he was very funny. It is: Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill by Walter Richard Sickert oil on canvas, 1927

Winston Churchill by Walter Richard Sickert
oil on canvas, 1927

And to round it all up our selection of the weird and wonderful of the London population, who could I not miss out after my selfie last week?

You are right: The Royal Family. We selected two paintings by the artists Bryan Organ and one all time classic by Oswald Birley.

Prince Charles by Bryan Organ acrylic on canvas, 1980

Prince Charles by Bryan Organ
acrylic on canvas, 1980

Diana, Princess of Wales by Bryan Organ acrylic on canvas, 1981

Diana, Princess of Wales by Bryan Organ
acrylic on canvas, 1981

King George V by Sir Oswald Birley oil on canvas, circa 1933

King George V by Sir Oswald Birley
oil on canvas, circa 1933

 

But there are certainly more out there. We could not add anymore. After all this collecting our gallery looks like that:

IMG_0221

 

And there will be many more. Maybe you can guess who we will be featuring next week.

Let us know who you found and share it with us either via our Twitter account (@artguruapp) or follow us on Facebook.

If you have any recommendations of what you would like to see next, write us.

 

 

Feline Good – A Day with Cats

We are fighting  the winter freeze by heading out into cold London on the hunt for cats. Cats? Yes, we are not kitten you. No, we did not lose focus from working on ArtGuru. We also didn’t get lonely in the process, looking for homeless cats in the streets of East London.  We went out to the Tate Britain and The National Gallery looking for felines eternalised in paintings. And it was claw-some. I will also stop with the cat puns from here. Fur-real.

Whoever thought that cat pictures were an invention by internet geeks in the 21st century having nothing better to do than filming their cats 24/7, were wrong.  Cats in pictures have a long tradition, going far beyond I can haz cheezburger. Already in the 19th century Hamerton writes in his book Chapters about animals: “It is odd that, notwithstanding the extreme beauty of cats, their elegance of motion, the variety and intensity of their colour, they should be so little painted by considerable artists.”  Carl van Vechten  even argues in his essay that cats are just too difficult to paint. So we decided that we focus on the cat in painting, giving it the attention it fully deserves. Let’s start with the failed attempt by Thomas Gainsborough, known to draw his daughters in various animal chasing scenarious (see: The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly). I can however only assume that he tried to draw a cat, as I can see a rather close resemblance to a snow leopard. Nothing you really want to have your daughters in a room with.

The Painter's Daughters by Thomas Gainsborugh at The National Gallery London

The Painter’s Daughters by Thomas Gainsborough, on display at The National Gallery, London

Is van Vechten right? Are cats just too hard to draw? We didn’t think so. And we went our way, visiting both the Tate Britain and the National Gallery in central London. And we were successful.

The paintings we ranging from the typical “cat rather eats other housepet, preferable with feathers, than looking cute” or “Here I am, sitting on a lonely woman’s lap, creating a cliché for the next two centuries” We could discuss any psychological reasoning behind why the girl is trying to strangle the cat, seeing as it is a picture by Lucian Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freund, but for the sake of all our sanity we decided against it.

Colonel Blair with his Family and an Indian Ayah by Johan Zoffany, on display at the Tate Britain, London

Colonel Blair with his Family and an Indian Ayah by Johan Zoffany, on display at the Tate Britain, London

 

Lucian Freud - Girl with Kitten, displayed at the Tate Britain

Lucian Freud – Girl with Kitten, on display at the Tate Britain, London

And never fear, we also found the typical “I am too good for this picture”- cat.

Mr. and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney, displayed at the Tate Britain, London

Mr. and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney, on display at the Tate Britain, London

And a shout goes out for all the cats who have ruined that one moment, here depicted by William Holman Hunt . He has used the cat to describe the wasted life of the woman, sitting unmarried on the lap of her lover, while the cat plays with a feathered bird. I am however not quiet sure what the cat has to do with the wasted life. I am more concerned about the carpet-wallpaper combination, but oh well…

The Awakening of the Conscience by William Holmant Hunt, on display at the Tate Britain, London

The Awakening of the Conscience by William Holmant Hunt, on display at the Tate Britain, London

A Cat close up

A Cat close up

We could interpret all kind of things into that picture but the point of this weeks entry actually is:

You can ignore the main story of the picture. ArtGuru can even recognise the painting if you scan only a small cutout. Theoretically you could fill your personal gallery with as many cat pictures as you like, without having the whole Graham family by Hogarth filling up any space.

 

The Graham Children by William Hogarth, on display at the Tate Britain, London.

The Graham Children by William Hogarth, on display at the Tate Britain, London.

Once ArtGuru is available all over the UK you can collect as many as 118 pictures with cats involved. You can share your favourite cat painting with us when using ArtGuru in London. Just tag us on Twitter or add it to our wall on Facebook.

Pawsome.

And as promised last week: The iPod feedback. During the last two weeks we have tested ArtGuru with an iPod, running iOS8. We thought that it might restrict us in the choice of museums we could go to as we have to rely on Wifi, but surprisingly, all featured museums offer free Wifi to use. If you have an iPod with iOS7 or higher, you can give it a try yourself and let us know how it works for you. We are currently compiling a list of all museums in London with free Wifi. So if you know of one that needs adding, write us either by commenting on here, or on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Woman with a cat by Edouard Manet, on display at the National Gallery, London

Woman with a cat by Edouard Manet, on display at the National Gallery, London

Until next week, where we’ll be looking at famous Londoners you can collect in your personal ArtGuru gallery.