"Art should startle the viewer into thinking about the meaning of life."
-Spanish painter Antoni Tapies
IPad art browsing app Art Authority (iTunes link) has added several new features that make this little treasure all the more enjoyable: the masterpiece shuffle and favorites. One of the iTunes staff favorite apps, Art Authority looks a little clunky on the outside, but now lets you enjoy more than 50,000 great works of visual art. The vast majority of the pieces are paintings and from the Western canon. Full screen viewing of public domain works around the web and one-click launch of Wikipedia articles about the artists make this a great example of a simple interface as a big value add.
Now the new shuffle feature makes it easy to explore nooks and crannies of the collection that you might not have thought to look in before and the favorites feature lets you return again and again to appreciate the works that move you the most. Shuffle and favorites might sound like minor features for most software, but when applied to 50,000 works of great art - I think they are better described as "serendipity" and "personal treasures."
Art Authority sells for $9.99 (less than a single admission to most great museums) and is one of the apps I launch on my iPad the most. The navigation still leaves something to be desired, but any time spent complaining about that would be better spent appreciating the centuries of inspired examination of more substantial matters contained within.
I've got codes for free downloads for the first 10 people who email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Art Authority" and some description of their favorite art form or experience. (My favorite art form is ceramics. My favorite places to enjoy it have been the Portland Craft Museum, the Oregon Ceramics Showcase and the National Museum of Amsterdam.) Update: We're all out, real quick. You can still write and tell me what your favorite art experiences are, but maybe you should go drop a ten instead.
Built by 1980's Apple engineer Alan Oppenheimer and his company Open Door Networks, Art Authority is a beautiful way to get some art education and ponder the human condition. Who could ask for anything more?