Ambitious New Web Site Seeks to Teach Art to the Masses

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The internet has certainly proven itself to be a fantastic conduit for showcasing diverse cultures and delivering every conceivable type of entertainment. Thanks to great platforms ranging from Netflix to Pandora and more, the world is exposed to an infinite choice of music, theater, social commentary and much more. Regardless of the languages spoken, the emotional messages do not require articulation to be understood. Yet, purely visual imagery is not always so easily communicated. How does one convey the context of a Jackson Pollock, for example? Can one truly appreciate the significance of a Picasso without having some pre-conceived understanding of Cubism?

Last week, a consortium of world-class museums, art historians and universities banded together to create Art.sy, a start-up website with an ambitious goal. The site was launched after years in development to bring fine art to populations around the globe. Investors, who raised millions of dollars, include household names from the art and tech world who shared this vision and put their money where their mouth is. To date, the visual contents collected include digitized art collections encompassing over 20,000 pieces…

Dubbed the Art Genome Project, the challenge is not physically collecting the images, but rather, how to organize the visual images in a way that the web robots can understand through algorithms. The problem is that the spiders responsible for determining content relevancy make bad art critics. Let’s face it, when is the last time you spotted a bot at a gallery opening?

The web’s developers are struggling with how to incorporate algorithms in conjunction with subjective criteria to help qualify the viewer’s visual experience. Examples of how other platforms interact in such a way Netflix which can make recommendations based on the viewer’s experience (i.e. “If you liked viewing impressionist paintings by Monet, you might like Gauguin.”) Fortunately, the institutions supporting the project are supplying hundreds of world renowned art experts to input their esthetic opinions and knowledge of art to inform the viewer. The question becomes, can an art expert teach a bot to be an art an art critic?

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