Artforum’s Artguide App: a Review

The app in question. (Courtesy Artforum)

Artforum released a new app for iPhones on March 13, a sleek and somewhat flashy portal to its renowned Artguide, the interactive heart of the Artforum website. This app is sleek and nifty, costs $2.99, and like its magazine, is geared to art world professionals and industry insiders who regularly travel the globe following the ever-expanding circuit of art fairs, openings and auctions.

The app successfully reflects its global orientation, including—on a slick black screen with white writing—five cities internationally (London, Berlin, Paris, Milan and Beijing) and two nationally, New York and Los Angeles. Within each city, you can select, from a menu, between five categories, “opening,” “galleries,” “museums,” “auctions” and “closing.” Once in a category, choose “Opening,” and within each city, you can search by neighborhood, or select “all.” Make your selection and you arrive at a beautiful clean scrollable page that lists openings replete with a picture and information about the gallery, including the date of the opening reception where available. In such a visual culture, while the inclusion of a picture seems key, the other app we’ve been using up to now, Artcards, didn’t have one. The picture is like a tall glass of water.

Scrolling through the smooth and easily navigable app, within a few seconds we can see that, on April 5, the Damien Hirst retrospective opens at Tate Modern in the U.K., the Urs Fischer show opens at Gagosian in Paris and Alessandro Cannistra opens in Milan at Officine dell’Immagine. You can also search by “artfairs” and “events” (“events” include biennials and Documenta) months into the future.

While the app includes art fairs like Frieze, Pulse and Red Dot in New York in May, glaringly absent this morning was the Nada Art Fair, which announced its exhibitor list back in February. But a quick call to Artforum straightened this all out and in a couple of hours, the Nada fair was listed. It was simply an oversight in a database that is 10years old, according to its publisher Charles Guarino and largely reliant on its users for data with oversight charged to a couple of staffers. “Our perspective is long and deep,” said Mr. Guarino. And while that long-term perspective might lead to some oversight with respect to immediate details, its quick response speaks to its effectiveness. Because the app ports directly from the site, Artforum’s updates can be refreshed in the amount of time it takes to brush your fingertip against the cool surface of your iPhone.

While it caters to the art-fair hoppers who use as their mode of transportation the jet plane as opposed to the L train, its omissions of more esoteric events, like museum talks and screenings, shows that it favors the jetsetters to the slight disadvantage of those whose lives are more locally grown. Those stopping into town on a two-day jaunt will most likely prefer to check out the blockbuster John Chamberlain show at the Guggenheim than they would the one-off Gilbert and George talk at the same museum. It’s the breadth and comprehensiveness of local events listings that its competitor Artcards has to its advantage. For example, last week, two events we attended that were listed on Artcards were not listed on the Artforum app, an opening at the Hole and the Vice launch party at Family Business, the gallery run by artist Maurizio Cattelan and curator Massimiliano Gioni.

As Mr. Cattelan recently had a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum and Mr. Gioni is the curator of the Venice Bienniale 2013, we were surprised Family Business wasn’t listed. Mr. Guarino said that because the app, like the Artguide, is reliant on user input, and because New York has such an “abundance of galleries,” the onus is on the galleries to list their events. With this use-it-or-lose-it approach, if a gallery’s staff isn’t on the ball or isn’t Internet savvy, it works against them. But Mr. Guarino stepped up to bat and within an hour Family Business was listed, as was tonight’s opening at that gallery proving that, in time, if it continues to respond to the needs of its users, it might just develop the local breadth and esoteric programming to satisfy even the non-globetrotting population.

Artforum’s Artguide App: a Review