Art books and catalogues have traditionally been produced on paper. In a video published on the TED website, software developer Mike Matas gives a fascinating demonstration of a digital format which might point to the multimedia future of the art catalogue.

In this video, Matas, a developer with Push Pop Press, demonstrates the capabilities of the company’s new iPad applications using a full-length interactive book, Our Choice, by Al Gore. The app uses video, audio and graphics which seamlessly integrate with the text: pictures can fold over, resize and rotate; infographics can be animated; interactive maps can be explored with the tap of a finger.

In a review on a New York Times, technology blog David Pogue noted that the application “is one of the most elegant, fluid, immersive apps you’ve ever seen. It’s a showpiece for the new world of touch-screen gadgets.” Indeed, in this video, Matas points out the ease with which information can be presented. And although the subject matter used in the example is climate change, the technology can be applied to any topic. Art galleries have quickly adopted this new format and are already beginning to create digital, truly interactive, exhibition catalogues.

The Choice App image

'The Choice' iPad app.

In September 2011, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, launched an iPad app Contemporary which is the first in a suite of applications to be released by the gallery. It enables the viewer to explore artists and works in the gallery’s contemporary art collection through behind the scenes videos, interviews with leading artists, audio commentary from gallery curators and the option to zoom in to see fine details of the artworks. More information is available from iTunes.

Contemporary Art Gallery NSW app

Screen shots of the iPad app 'Contemporary: Art Gallery of NSW'.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Independent listed their top picks of contemporary art applications, and included on the list was The Saatchi Gallery Opus HD for iPad, which presents a comprehensive history of the controversial gallery’s exhibitions, Phillips de Pury & Company’s app which includes auction house previews and the Museum of Modern Art’s app with the clunky title MoMA Ab Ex NY, which shows highlights from its major exhibition, “Abstract Expressionist New York”. The free MoMA app was reviewed in PC Mag and received four-and-a-half stars. The article states, “if you’re an art enthusiast with an iPad, consider this app a must-download.”


Screen shots of MoMA’s app MoMA Ab Ex NY.

With an increasing array of contemporary art iPad apps to choose from, the future of the art catalogue seems set to follow the multimedia trend. What uses can you see for interactive books within your art business or practice? Can you see it becoming a popular way to display an artist’s work? We would love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below.


Related Topics: art and the Internet, books, resources

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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