The art store

I’ve been bitten by the minimalist bug. I am trying, here and there, to get rid of things that I know I don’t use. I have a lot of art books. I have either read them all, or I have flipped through and soaked up all of the pictures. They have laid unopened for years. They are no longer a source of inspiration. I am not a historian, so my books are not reference materials. They’re just trophies which I carefully pack and lug each time I move. They are so unused that in one I found a ticket stub from “Jurassic World” from May of 1997 serving as a bookmark.

I traded in one old art book on Amazon - but the others are so old or have been replaced with subsequent editions that they have no value. But books store guilt between their pages and I can’t imagine dumping them in the recycling bin. Perhaps my local used bookstore would want them?

For a moment I had a clever thought. What if I just bought digital copies of the books I really like and recycle or donate the rest? I could “keep” the books without keeping them. Digital things take up no space and weigh very little.

So I went searching at Amazon and the iBook store and found…very little. You can find some works by critics (at absurd prices) but very few catalogs of artists’ work. Strange. I searched the Apple App Store and found very little there as well. I found a few opportunistic apps which collected public domain images and sold them as a bundle in an app. There is the beautiful App-edition of “Interaction of Color by Josef Albers” - but really it’s an art desert otherwise.

This makes some sense when you consider the complexities of copyright law. A museum might love to make their collection available in App form or on the web - but while the museum owns the art, they rarely own the copyright. Or the copyright is held by a donor. Securing authorization to reproduce piles of art work in an app has got to be an expensive and daunting task. So they just don’t do it. There may also be some snobbery at play too.

So why don’t contemporary artists publish the app store? Technical limitations? The lack of a universal ‘content management system’ for apps? I did some more searching for art on app stores - and I stumbled across this “ArtApp” project: http://www.artapp.org. They have published a few open letters to Apple executives on (of course) Medium here and here.

The gist is that they want an “Art” category in the Apple App Store to bucket all the art things together. The Josef Albers app I mentioned above lives under “Education”. The ArtApp website lists some art apps (apps as an artwork) - and they find themselves under “Entertainment” or “Games” or even “Health and Fitness”. Sure, why not?

I suspect that post-internet artists making zany health apps have no interest in being dropped into an Art category because that’s not the point. Read the history of Apple, and you’ll find that Jobs and company saw themselves as artists. The Mac is a work of art from their perspective. I’d bet Phil Schiller considers every app on the app store a work of art. How is Kim Kardashian’s “game” (where you simulate her rise to fame) not art?

Well the answer to that question is of course, that the art world hasn’t sanctioned it as such, so it doesn’t count as “Art” even if it’s indistinguishable in any meaningful way.

Michael Barrett

Tacoma, WA 98402