Art.sy opened to the public today, after nearly two years of “invitation only” testing. Actually, if you didn’t get an invitation from a friend in the art elite, you could join with a group of five friends—or with five virgin e-mail accounts to sacrifice. The hassle of remembering your college email password was worth it for the site’s enormous, highly magnifiable images. The machine-learning internet art collection allows you to search over 17,000 works by 3,000 artists by keyword, save your favorites, see if a piece is for sale (but not where) and, most importantly, suggests other art you may like (Art.sy). The site is both run on, and in service of, building the Art Genome Project, where over 800 characteristics are cataloged by computers (easily recognizable things like hue), and humans who input the information into computers (“The Fantastic,” “decay”). The ostensible purpose of using Art.sy—to discover new art that conforms to your tastes (likened to Pandora by the NYT)—sort of worked. But mostly, my “Collection” on Art.sy was just an online image cache like Tumblr or (shudder) Pinterest. The art I searched for often directed me to tangentially related art that I didn’t like. If the algorithms behind Art.sy’s recommendation engine are well-built (a big “if”), Art.sy’s recommendations should improve as more works are added, catalogued, and “liked”.
Though the nascent stages of Art.sy have been a bit of a disappointment, the site has enough funding and momentum to evolve into something better. Better at least, than the inelegantly designed Google Art Project, or ARTstor, which is principally used by art history grad student trolls. For now, it’s a place online to poke around, as the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s Seb Chan was quoted in the NYT article: “You shouldn’t need to be a scholar to discover works of art that you might be fascinated by,” he said. “You go to museums and you browse — chancing upon things is what it’s all about. The Art Genome is another way of creating serendipitous connections.” Art.sy is fun, but don’t expect it to revolutionize the art world, just yet.
Art Fag City’s Paddy Johnson has an excellent breakdown of the site.
The New York Time’s Melena Ryzik compares Art.sy to Pandora over and over again.