For less than the cost of one museum admission ticket, Art Authority for iPad by Open Door Networks (sold separately for iPhone and Pod touch for $4.99) is a portable art survey course that fits in your handbag (or man bag, as the case may be). Named as Best Reference App in Apple’s App Store Rewind for 2010 and 2011, this app has beauty and brains.
Thanks to a recent update, users can search for “art like this” and “art near me” within the app. The art like this function is particularly addictive, and resulted in a new, and very enjoyable way, to peruse the application. The search feature has been enhanced so users can search a particular artist’s work for areas of interest. Users running iOS5 can also tweet from within the app.
Although the app’s GUI is a breeze to negotiate, Art Authority also includes a robust tutorial that clearly explains the many different ways to use this application. The user can toggle between wall view and slideshow view while exploring the app.
Each room corresponds to a period in art history: early, Renaissance, Baroque, Romantic, Impressionist, Modern, Contemporary and American rooms. Starting with the room’s overview gives the user information about the room, allows them to view the major works in the collect, shuffle the artwork when viewing, and, my personal favorite, see a timeline of the period. Some rooms offer multiple timelines, which shed new light on ways to view the relationship between an artist and his cohort of creators.
Each work is displayed along with its relevant biographical information, as well as the art’s current location. There are hyperlinks throughout the app that open Wikipedia, making it easy for the user to learn more about a particular artist or museum.
With a single tap users can easily see the entire body of work that the app has for a particular artist. Art Authority lets users pair music housed on their iPad with any slideshow. While the app requires a Wi-Fi connection to view the art in its entirety, previously viewed art is accessible offline.
The apps shortcomings are few, and don’t hinder the app’s overall utility. It took a long time for the collection to load on to the iPad after its first installation. There is an option enable audio commentary from Ken Burns, though I could never get it to work. Also, the search feature often turned up no hits. For example, searching “flower” on Georgia O’Keefe turned up no paintings.
Art Authority for iPad is certain to please art fans and novices alike with its easy-to-use GUI and solid representation of artists and genres.
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