Art.sy, an online art discovery service, finally opened its doors to the public this week, after two years of private testing. Founded by Carter Cleveland and launched in partnership with more than 50 art museums, the site is powered by the Art Genome Project, a recommendation engine widely referred to as the "Pandora for art." This catalog includes more than 20,000 works from galleries, museums, foundations, and private collections. Some pieces are for sale — with price tags of more than $1 million, on the high end — though the site seems more rooted in discovery rather than collection.
Each piece is cataloged according to specific labels, or what Art.sy calls "genes." Some genes are objective — e.g., date, geography, and artistic movement — while others, like "youth" and "provocative," are more subjective in nature. Every label is then assigned a value between 0 and 100, based on how well it applies to a given work. A piece by Bansky, for example, would have a high "street art" or "graffiti" value, which would influence the automatically generated list of related works that appears below it.
If you like Warhol, you might like...
The site's layout is relatively straightforward. From the homepage, you can either browse works by categories such as style, region, and subject matter, or filter the entire catalog according to size, medium, price, and color. Clicking on a specific piece brings up a brief description of its artist and historical context, and some works can be viewed in a virtual gallery. Users can also choose to follow a given artist, or inquire about any items for sale.
It's a generally fluid experience, though there are some drawbacks. Filtered results, for example, can only be sorted by date; price and color filters help narrow the field, though bulk searches remain cluttered. And while Art.sy be more discovery-friendly than the Google Art Project, its collection is notably smaller. The site's exhaustive categorization can also be a bit overwhelming — random generation could be a useful addition — though once you start exploring it's easy to get sucked into a wormhole.
Quirks aside, Art.sy's premise is undoubtedly fascinating. To a certain extent, sites like Pandora and Netflix have already proven the ability to quantify our tastes in music and movies. Whether the same formula can be applied to art — a field more monstrously diverse and, almost by definition, unwieldy — remains to be seen.