Fake it till you make it

It’s a little like one of those ads from the back pages of a 1950s newspaper: ‘Boost your muscle tone without lifting a finger!’, only in this case the claim appears to be that anyone can become an art expert without straining the old grey cells. 

Handy if you’re lost for words in a gallery, fearful of making a fool of yourself by getting your Manet mixed up with your Mannerism.

That’s unfair, of course, and exactly the kind of culturally elitist response expected from gallery snobs. 

Smartify has made an app that recognises works of art through a smartphone, providing short, digestible information about the artwork, artist or the sitter. 

What’s not to love? Surely it’s no different than consulting a dusty tome of Benezit’s Dictionary of Artists, with the added bonus of not having to lug all 10 volumes around (it’s available online, too, of course). 

Plus the app allows you to add the works to your phone, giving you a portable gallery to look at on the tube. You have ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ while the person sitting next to you is glued to a cat video.

However, is the app just another attempt to appeal to book-shy, screen-obsessed millennials? Is it helping us to look more closely at the works on display, or shrinking the gallery experience into a reductive ‘scan and go’ game of fun fact gathering – gotta get ’em all!

I think rather like the idea of having a mini-gallery on my phone. I hope it would encourage me to visit the gallery again, where (phone carefully tucked away) I would happily show off my hard-earned knowledge with all the eloquence and confidence of a bona fide expert.

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We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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