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Art Authority: Vast Galleries Come to Life on iPad's Generous Screen

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
May 3, 2010 5:00 AM PT

If there's an App Store application that clearly benefits from the iPad, it's Art Authority (US$9.99) from Open Door Networks. The Apple tablet's spacious screen adds an arresting dimension to this virtual art museum software.

Art Authority: Vast Galleries Come to Life on iPad's Generous Screen

 Art Authority

When you launch Art Authority, you enter the main gallery. It's a very pleasant place. The screen rendering is so realistic that you'll want to sit on the padded bench in the room and gaze on the paintings on the wall for awhile.

Each painting represents a period of art. Labels beneath the virtual canvases identify those periods. They are Early (up to 1400), Renaissance, Baroque, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modern, Contemporary and American. In total, Art Authority contains more than 40,000 paintings and sculptures from over 1,000 artists of the Western World.

In addition to the paintings on the wall, there are two thumbnails for activating pop-up menus. One displays a Getting Around menu; the other, a searchable Artists Directory.

The directory lets you find artists in the program by name. As you type letters in the search field, artists appear that match each letter you type. This search dynamic reduces the time it takes to find an artist because most of the time you won't have to key in a whole name before you find who you're looking for.

Poking and Tapping Through Culture

When the artist's name is displayed, you simply tap it and a sample of his work will appear on the screen. Poking the sample will enlarge it.

Appearing with the sample is a strip of thumbnails of other works by the artist. Tapping a thumbnail will replace the sample with a larger view of the thumbnail.

You can also find artists alphabetically. The alphabet is displayed along the side of the directory. Poking a letter displays the artists whose last names begins with that character. The letters are small, however, so what you think you're poking isn't always what you're actually poking.

The Getting Around menu gives you information about the program. An overview of the software is available from the menu, for instance, as well as narratives about the rooms in the virtual museum and how to navigate through it.

There are explanations of the app's settings in the Getting Around menu, but you access those options from the iPad's settings menu. From the settings menu, you can perform tasks such as defining the number of display columns for art, determining the length of time art is shown on the screen and choosing transitions in slideshows of the art.

To enter a period gallery, you prod a thumbnail on the main wall. Inside the period gallery, you'll see more thumbnails representing styles of the period. In the Contemporary period, for example, styles are Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Installation Art, Abstract and Sculpture.

Charming and Engaging App

In addition to the style thumbnails, there's an artist directory, similar to the one in the main gallery, for searching for artists of the period.

When you poke a style thumbnail, a directory of artists for that style appears. Flicking the artist list moves up and down through it.

At the top of the artist directory is an item that allows you to browse works of art for that style. The images for the overview are pulled in from wikimedia.org, so if you're not connected to the Internet, the overview won't work.

A small menu is available in the view that gives you tools for moving through all the images in the gallery, enlarging an image or displaying the thumbnails in a contact-sheet-like arrangement.

When an image is in full screen, or slideshow, mode, tapping a blank area on the display will fade in a menu for moving forward and backward through the image queue, obtaining information from Wikipedia about an artist, applying "Ken Burns" effects to the slideshow and saving the image to the iPad's photo app.

While there's no substitute for visiting a museum and seeing a master's work in person, Art Authority is a charming and engaging way to appreciate high art in between visits.


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