Rolls Out Huge Archive of Fine-Art Images and an Intelligent Art Appreciation Guide

Yes­ter­day saw the launch of what you’ll sure­ly find the most intrigu­ing use of Syr­i­a’s domain name exten­sion yet, espe­cial­ly if you fol­low the visu­al arts. It serves the pun­ning site, to which you’ll soon point your brows­er when­ev­er you want to dis­cov­er new imagery that appeals to your aes­thet­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty. Thus holds the the­o­ry, in any case, behind this ser­vice cre­at­ed by the Art Genome Project. It aims to become to visu­al art what Pan­do­ra has become to music: a vir­tu­al mind that can take your tastes, turn right back around to rec­om­mend works that please those tastes, and — in the best of all pos­si­ble out­comes, lit­tle by lit­tle — broad­en those tastes as well. Tell what has recent­ly cap­ti­vat­ed you in the muse­ums, and it will dig through pieces from Wash­ing­ton’s Nation­al Gallery, the Los Ange­les Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art, the Coop­er-Hewitt Nation­al Design Muse­um, the British Muse­um, and else­where, try­ing its best to find some­thing else that will do the same. In total, hosts “17,000+ art­works by 3,000+ artists” from “300+ of the world’s lead­ing gal­leries, muse­ums, pri­vate col­lec­tions, foun­da­tions, and artist estates from New York to Lon­don, Paris to Shang­hai, Johan­nes­burg to São Paulo.”

Mele­na Ryzik in The New York Times describes’s elab­o­rate sys­tem of code-based aes­thet­ic clas­si­fi­ca­tion as devel­oped by “a dozen art his­to­ri­ans who decide what those codes are and how they should be applied,” in which “some labels ( calls them “genes” …) denote fair­ly objec­tive qual­i­ties, like the his­tor­i­cal peri­od and region the work comes from and whether it is fig­u­ra­tive or abstract, or belongs in an estab­lished cat­e­go­ry like Cubism, Flem­ish por­trai­ture or pho­tog­ra­phy,” while oth­ers “are high­ly sub­jec­tive, even quirky.” Ryzik lists the pos­si­ble codes for a Picas­so as includ­ing “Cubism,” “abstract paint­ing,” “Spain,” “France” and “love,” and those for a Jack­son Pol­lock as “abstract art,” “New York School,” “splattered/dripped,” “rep­e­ti­tion” and “process-ori­ent­ed.” Here we have yet anoth­er rea­son to main­tain a high artis­tic aware­ness in our high-tech time. Still, I can’t help but recall the wise coun­sel Stephen Fry offered in an inter­view we fea­tured back in August: a tru­ly life-enrich­ing rec­om­men­da­tion engine would­n’t give you the same art you’ve always enjoyed; it would give you the exact oppo­site.

You can learn more about the ins-and-outs of here.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.


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