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New AIC French Impressionism App

By Ben Schuman Stoler in Arts & Entertainment on Sep 30, 2010 6:00PM

Been an interesting couple of weeks for the Art Institute. Last week it came out that the Modern Wing was so shoddily constructed, the AIC expects to shell out some $10 million for repairs on top of the $9 million already paid. AIC is suing Ove Arup & Partners International for - pardon the pun - damages.

But this week there is considerably better news coming from the lions' house. The AIC, with Toura, released a French Impressionism app for iPhone, Android, and iPad yesterday that is a must have for art nerds with smart phones. Available for $1.99 for a limited time (after which it'll go up to $3.99), it's probably too steep a price to pay for app misers. But if you dig painting, if you care about what may be Chicago's greatest collection of art that doesn't include buildings, this app is worth it.

We've been harsh on the AIC in the past for failing to reach out to or connect with contemporary patrons, and even with the app's steep price, who knows - maybe it's the beginning of a more dynamic and aware approach towards generating interest in the museum.

You can post to Facebook and Twitter from the app, but they're mostly ads for Toura. What's better is the wealth of information the app provides and the neat way the information is organized. First of all, a useful search feature lets you cut right through and find a particular painting, or painter. That's nice. Then there are brief (~2 min) videos in which, while scanning a gallery, you get a thematic overview of the room.

But the best part is that it's basically an encyclopedia of impressionism in your pocket, only, an encyclopedia with high-res photos and videos. Each painting or heading (check out "Impressionism in Chicago") is packed with information from AIC curators. That makes it a nice bar tool, you know, for when you and a buddy are at odds over whether Van Gogh's "The Bedroom" is more self-portrait or landscape. Or really, it's just pretty to play with.

It's hard to go into the AIC and not stop by the Impressionists. With this app, you can check em out from wherever. That's good. Now, as for getting hoards of twentysomethings into the museum, this probably won't cut it. But maybe it's a start.