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How Will That Priceless Picasso Look On Your Wall? Now You Don’t Have To Guess

A new app from art marketplace Artsy lets you mount paintings virtually before you buy them.

How Will That Priceless Picasso Look On Your Wall? Now You Don’t Have To Guess
Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Slipper Cove, 2018, courtesy Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY.[Photo: courtesy of Artsy]

If you have a few million to spend on a Picasso but aren’t sure where to hang it, don’t despair. Technology is here to help you choose.

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A new augmented reality feature available in Artsy’s iOS app lets you virtually “mount” tens of thousands of paintings, drawings, prints, and other forms of art on any wall. Drawing from the art marketplace’s 800,000-plus catalog, the AR feature is meant to make it possible to see how almost any piece of art will look in your home. It was built for Apple’s latest version of ARKit.

Much in the same way that AR apps from Ikea, Houzz, and others now make it possible to see how furniture might look in any room, Artsy’s tool is meant to help art buyers feel confident that the Van Gogh they’re eyeing will actually work in their Tribeca loft.

[Photo: courtesy of Artsy]

Artsy is not the only art company launching an AR tool this week. Today, Saatchi Art, which bills itself as the world’s leading art gallery, also launched an app that lets users test art on their walls.

Artsy’s collection features works from more than 5,000 museums, galleries, and auction houses, and much of it either isn’t for sale (paintings in museum collections, for example) or isn’t original. Still, the app can be useful for those who want to virtually try before they buy.

“People say, How do you know what that art is going to look like in your home?” says Carter Cleveland, Artsy’s founder and CEO. “This is a good way to approximate that as closely as possible using the latest technology.”

Cleveland says Artsy worked closely with Apple to make sure the AR features of the app worked well. And it is indeed very cool to be able to virtually hang a Chagall painting on your wall if you have access to an iPhone with the latest version of ARKit. In practice, however, getting the app to work requires very well-lit walls, and some patience with nascent technology.

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When it does work, though, the app virtually places artwork on your walls that you can then view from any angle by simply moving your phone around. The first time you successfully get the app to work is an a-ha moment.

[Photo: courtesy of Artsy]

Using the app, you can search for countless art pieces. Not every piece supports the AR feature, but all allow you to read about the work and, in many cases, bid on it.

Cleveland touts the fact that the app automatically scales the artwork to your wall, as well as the fact that it “places” paintings directly on your wall, rather than having them floating in space in front of the wall—which he says often happens in other AR art apps.

There’s a long way to go before this becomes the accepted way to evaluate art, but the potential is clearly there. And some day, everyone who buys art, whether it’s multi-million dollar Kandinskys or simple Picasso prints, may well find themselves using AR to see if their new picture is going to clash with the wall color.

“I think people are going to look back,” Cleveland says, “and wonder how they used to buy art without this.”

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About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications.

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