Monday saw the launch of Art.sy, a Web site that claims to “do for visual art what Pandora did for music and Netflix for film: become a source of discovery, pleasure and education.” At its simplest, users entering a search term such as “Picasso” or “Cubism” will discover related images and other terms to search on. As with its music and film predecessors, Art.sy is adding artists and works to its collection as part of its “Art Genome Project.” Founder Carter Cleveland is not shy about his goal: “All the world’s art is going to be free to anyone with an Internet connection.” Backing him up are a number of different investors ranging from financiers to notables in the art world, as well as more than 300 galleries, museums, and institutions.
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What’s the Big Deal?
The technology behind Art.sy is similar to Pandora’s in that it relies heavily on human, not computer, interpretation. Art historians assign labels to works and assign a numerical value to decide where each fits in the continuum. Subjectivity is unavoidable, as one art-school dean notes: “It depends so much on the information, who’s doing the selection, what the criteria are, and what the cultural assumptions behind those criteria are.”