Art.sy – the ‘Art Genome’?


A newly launched website, art.sy, has as its mission to make all of the world’s art available to anyone with an internet connection. The website is powered by The Art Genome Project, a collaboration between art historians and computer scientists which studies the characteristics that distinguish and connect works of art. The technology behind it is mostly open source, and for those interested in the techie side of it, the Art.sy Engineering Blog has all the information one could possibly need. The important part, however, is that The Art Genome is a giant taxonomy of art-related concepts. There has been some controversy about the way the project relates artists and artworks – some artists are unhappy about how their work is being categorised-, but the scale of the work, and the combination of art-historical research and computer science is fascinating, and it will be interesting to see whether, as the project grows, the genomes and the relationships they establish between artists and artworks continue to be as meaningful.

The site is particularly strong on contemporary art. Looking at their Browse categories, one can look at artworks by style, contemporary art, subject, medium or technique, and region. Clicking on Conceptualism produces 2,516 results, with artists as varied as Tracey Emin and Ai Wei Wei. The quality of the images is excellent and, although the site’s licensing agreements with their artwork image providers do not allow for image downloads, simply browsing through the site is a great way of learning about art.

Art.sy is also establishing collaborations with contemporary artists, such as this short video of artist Cai Guo Qiang’s work, Sky Ladder.

Art.sy is certainly a project to watch, and a great source of inspiration for art students.

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