Reviewed April 2014
Cathryn Copper, Librarian
School of Architecture, Woodbury University
The award-winning application, Art Authority, is a digital art museum on your iPad. More than 65,000 paintings and sculptures from over 1,000 of the Western world’s major artists, from ancient times to today, are available at your fingertips. The content is organized into “rooms” based on time period: Early (up to 1400s), Renaissance (1400s-1500s), Baroque (1600s-1700s), Romanticism (1790-1800s), Impressionism (later 1800s), Modern (late 1800s-1950s), Contemporary, and the American (US) room.
Within each time period the user is able to filter to the highlights or major works, as well as view works at random. Each room includes a timeline contextualizing the period—some with graphics by data visualization expert Edward Tufte.
Artwork in each of the artist’s galleries is organized chronologically with scrollable thumbnails. When the thumbnails are enlarged to full screen size plaques appear below the artwork that denote title, year, medium, size, and the name of the gallery housing the original. Images of the artwork are pulled from authoritative sites like The Public’s Library and Digital Archive and the Museum of Modern Art. Links to authorized websites provide information on copyright and usage rights.
Search features include title, subject, and location, and links to details and videos on the artist, the work, and its location. The content is not as reliable nor as authoritative as the comparable ARTstor mobile database, but the overall ease of browsing is far superior; primarily because, unlike ARTstor mobile, which is essentially a reformatted website, Art Authority was created for use on a tablet. The app also includes notable features like “Art Near Me,” “Art Like This,” and “Art Real Size.” “Art Near Me” lets you search within a 500-mile radius from your current location. Content is displayed in scrollable thumbnails, not on a map. Location information can then be found on the artwork’s plaque but does not include addresses or directions. “Art Like This.” searches for art similar in subject, color, and style—however, color appears to be the primary deciding feature.
“Art Real Size” provides a shadow of a person to show the artwork’s actual size. Finally, users can save images to their favorites or the photo app, email it, or post it to a social network. Some images even include the option to purchase a high-quality, custom-sized, framed print. Internet access is needed initially, but once an artwork is viewed the images are saved in cache memory and can be retrieved offline.
Flaws in the app are minimal although it would benefit from a few additional features, like a rotation tool and a magnifying tool, and links to more critical articles than Wikipedia. In addition, there is the seemingly unfixable problem of colors appearing differently digitally than their actual hue. Nonetheless this app offers a large breadth of information and these suggested features would merely be additional highlights to an already praiseworthy app.
All art aficionados will appreciate this app. Students can learn styles, periods, groups, or movements; teachers can use it for discovery activities; museum curators and librarians can point to similar pieces, bibliographic information, and information regarding a work’s location.
Art Authority is the winner of the App Store Rewind 2010 and 2011 “Best iPad Reference App” and the Macworld/iWorld “Best 25 Apps of All Time” awards. In addition, it has received positive recognition in The New York Times and The Huffington Post. Overall the delivery of its content is exemplary and gets you as close to the Louvre as possible from the comfort of your own library.