It finally happened: computer geeks and art nerds fused forces to produce an intriguing new application about art, history, and culture. Launched earlier this month (July 19, 2016), the Arts & Culture app is brimming with new means of accessing information from the art world. Equipped with an Art Recognizer, the app allows you to navigate certain museums and identify the work of art, its artist, and any special facts simply by directing your camera at the given piece.
What a time to be alive!
If you do not consider yourself tech-savvy (definitely me), worry not. The app is tailored to be concise, organized, and minimalistic in design, making it overall user friendly. The home page previews a range of subjects from which to choose from –did you know, on this day, artists’ birthdays, new exhibitions, spotlight stories, objects in focus, discussions, virtual tours- and refreshes the cycle daily.
In addition to these featured stories, the Arts section is organized by artists, mediums, and art movements; moving further still into detail (hats off to Google), these sections can then each be viewed randomly, alphabetically, or by time period. Never before have I been able to as successfully visualize artists’ placement in time as when I used the timeline from the app.
But wait, that’s not all. There is also a Places option, allowing you to explore art that is site specific or native to a region. Considering the large emphasis I tend to see towards western art, this option provides a positive step in the direction of bringing attention to non-western countries and their art.
Good news: this application is not exclusive to I-can-name-wine-in-my-sleep-and-own-a-ridiculous-number-of-turtlenecks people. Google does a wonderful job of making the application welcoming and interactive. My favorite feature is, coincidentally, the Favorites feature which allows you to create collections of art grouped entirely by your choice.
Gone are the days of feeling intimidated by art institutions! La Révolution is upon us!
This nine-day-old application is progressing in the right direction, and holds serious potential for further improvement. Things I hope to see develop in the future of this app largely concern diversity and expansion. Yes, it is wonderful to see our beloved Van Gogh, Monet, Munch, and Rubens. However, think about what they all have in common; they are all white males. I am not pointing this out to claim that because they are white males, their art is less valuable or impressive. But, if the app truly strives to encapsulate and accurately present Arts & Culture, then the equal inclusion of all races and genders is necessary. I want to see more women, more non-white people, and overall more recognition of marginalized people.
On top of this (I’m not quite ready to dismount my liberal high horse just yet), their work must be represented equally. Let’s consider the app’s coverage of Frida Kahlo. Only 28 out of her 101 existing paintings reported by the Frida Kahlo Foundation are shown. Meanwhile, Rembrandt, who created 324 total paintings, booms with a whopping 1,479 art works; this means that the app even includes his thousands of sketches. Coverage of Rembrandt’s work is spectacular, but only about 28% of Kahlo’s paintings are shown. Both were artists, both influenced art history, both are renowned. So, why the disparity?
I challenge Google to work towards building this application into a more diverse, and therefore more accurate, depiction of Arts & Culture. Lastly, I challenge you to embark on this journey and explore the application as it evolves to expand its collection of artists, art pieces, and places to be more inclusive.