Keeping up with the contemporary art world may sometimes seem like a Sisyphean task. Aside from the endless programming of most major museums and galleries, there are always pop-up shows, artist collective open studios, or intimate “happenings” at alternative-spaces waiting to be discovered. Luckily, we at Art Zealous have gathered the best of current free iPhone apps (that actually work!) to help you navigate art scenes wherever you may be. No longer will you have to sign up for a thousand different mailing lists or “like” a hundred Facebook pages just to stay in the loop!
1. See Saw
If there is one and only one app you try from our list, it must be the absolute queen of them all, See Saw Gallery Guide. Covering international art centers New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, London, and Paris, See Saw lists shows by neighborhood, openings (this week), closings (this week), and “Editor’s Picks.” The design is extremely user-friendly, paring the information down to its essentials (artist, venue, address). Galleries big and small feature on See Saw, meaning you can find exactly the type of art you want to see. When you click to learn more about an event, further information like gallery hours, press releases, and even photo previews are all available at your fingertips.
Finally, you can “add” shows to a personalized map for streamlined gallery-hopping. Also available is a map with the “Editor’s Picks” already marked out. Talk about efficiency! (Plus, the app almost never crashes – unlike some of the other contenders on this list.)
ART.WORLD is like See Saw meets Tinder. While its coverage is also strongest in Los Angeles, New York, London, Berlin, and Paris, ART.WORLD also allows you to look up other global cities for museums and galleries. The biggest drawback of ART.WORLD is that you do have to sign-up or link your account to Facebook, but that’s also where its strength lies. You see, ART.WORLD presents a slew of ongoing shows, and while it’s not “swiping” per se, you respond “Yes” or “No.” This continues until you’ve exhausted the city’s art institutions.
Afterwards – or during – you may switch to a map of all the shows and galleries to which you’ve already checked “Yes,” clustered and summed up in regions. The great thing is that ART.WORLD also allows you to mark items as “seen,” helping you navigate events in a thorough manner.
While this is probably not the prettiest of apps, it fills a niche as yet unoccupied. The interface is beautifully simple and accessible. Users add to a database of graffiti sightings – either via pictures or through “flagging” a piece of graffiti in danger of being removed. Though mostly concentrated in New York, there are a few posts scattered on the East and West Coasts, Mexico, eastern South America, Europe, and even Asia and Africa. While in the New York region, however, its best to check out the much busier “flagged” map. Not a bad way to discover the Big Apple – especially if you are wandering beyond Manhattan!
Operating in Berlin, New York, London, and Warsaw, Exhibitionary is basically like the See Saw app with the option of adding “Favorites.” Of course, there are also the usual “Picks” and “Openings” filters. Exhibitionary is useful in terms of expanding the See Saw repertoire (there are significantly more galleries in its database for the European cities), and of course, the additional city of Warsaw. The design is also a little more streamlined and minimalist – it’s a pity the app doesn’t include Los Angeles!
Speaking of Europe… if you ever find yourself in that heartland of contemporary art (Berlin) then this app is a terrific way to explore the city. Much prettier than nycgraffiti, but unfortunately the selection is only curated by one guy – artist and tour guide Uli Schuster. It’s worth checking out, and we can only hope that the list stays updated.
Strictly speaking, this isn’t an “art” app, but it is ridiculously helpful for tapping into whatever scene near you, instantly! Art, music, comedy, food – Nearify has you covered wherever you happen to be. It has an extensive roster of activities grouped in bigger categories like theatre, festivals, or sports. There are even categories that are a little more mundane but nevertheless compelling like technology, spirituality, and workshops. It’s as if someone did all the hard work of finding every single Facebook listed event and condensed it into this little app! You simply check the types of activities you are interested in, and voilà, more than enough events to fill your calendars twice or thrice over.
There are social aspects to the app – a “Topics” tab for specialty interest groups and “Artists” tab for keeping up-to-date with your favorite performers, as well as a feed to keep track of what your friends are doing ’round town. Be warned that you will likely be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things you could be doing this weekend, heck, even this weekday! And when we said “every single Facebook listed event,” we meant it – somehow, an interest in “art” brought up listings for a feminist painting collective’s monthly gathering at the same time as an art and music networking event. Not bad, actually. The more the merrier?
The following apps in one way or another did not meet our requirements, but we so wanted them to work that they deserve honorable mentions. In anticipation of future revamps or better development of these original ideas, we decided to introduce you anyways – just so you can be ready, right?
HM 1. NY Art Beat
A brilliant app for New York’s art scene, likely more extensive and thoroughly curated than our dear friend, See Saw. Vague mentions of magical map features, including a search query by walking distance.
downfall: Alas, NY Art Beat is not free. It also operates only in NYC, leaving See Saw still the more versatile app.
HM 2. Artbit
Artbit held an enticing promise – the ability to scan artworks with their labels as a personal repository. It sounds like it would be perfect for gallery hopping, right? No more navigating through endless image lists digging for the artist who did that thing with the wall that you would never be able to recount to your friend. Sure, there was a map-like/listing feature like See Saw, but it was definitely not very functional.
downfall: To be certain, we’re not sure the “label-grabbing” bit of Artbit works all that well, either. It’s unclear whether they scan the artwork into some private database and bring back to the result, or whether it “reads” the labels live. Either way, the app needs a lot of work before it is going to really handle the volume of new art being produced and shown every day.