Decoding Design

Art.sy: A gigantic new online fine art database

Art.sy: A gigantic new online fine art database

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Art.sy, though still in beta for now, brings the enormous world of fine art in your home with a searchable, constantly updated database from the Art Genome Project.

The Internet is bringing more and more of the outside world into our living rooms-- but what it brings, whether it be Thai food, groceries, new friends, or movies is completely up to who's behind the computer. Recently, many new sites have been exploring how to bring fine art, traditionally only enjoyed in the flesh, to computer monitors in remote locations.

For browsing of museum-worthy artworks, there is already the Google Art Project, where users can virtually tour some of the world's most famous art museums, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, to the Tate in London, to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. While Google Art Project is an incredible use of the technology available, letting school children and the casually curious alike take field trips across the globe to zoom in on some of the world's most famous art, it's not an information database, and the artworks must be in one of the cooperating museums.

This brings us to a newer project that also deals with the world of art, art collection and art education. This site, however, extends its reach not over just museums, but over an artists entire career. The site, called Art.sy, is an art aggregation site that also streamlines the publishing of catalogue raisonnes, or the comprehensive catalogs of an artist, and was created with the help of master gallerist Larry Gagosian and Russian art-darling Dasha Zhukova, and investors like Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy.

These catalogs are constantly being updated, whether its a living artist who is adding new work, or an old artist whose work changes hands. In print, these databases are always playing catch-up, but online they can be updated easily.

Art.sy is still in its beta phase, powered by the Arts Genome project, that tracks and catalogs every artist, arts organization and every exhibition, performance and even in real time. Art.sy continues in this fashion, but takes the concept further by making all of this information searchable by artist, specific piece, color, size, etc. You can also choose to look for only art that is on sale, or browse through Art.sy's already-curated lists of works by subject matter.

Art.sy adds to the growing online world of art, and makes it easier to learn about new artists and new and ongoing movements. Users can start their own "collection" that you can revisit and add to when you return to the site. There's a Pandora-like feature that shows users similar works, and any piece you view can also be viewed on a gallery wall.

Clearly, nothing can substitute seeing a work of art in person, but by bringing art to a more reachable distance, sites like Art.sy and the Google Art Project are placing a spotlight on a part of our culture that has often been overlooked in the digital age.

[Core 77]
Image: Screen shot of the Art.sy homepage

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure