By Graham K. Rogers
It is no surprise these days to see more traditional forms of communication and entertainment embrace new media. In recent years, several festivals and exhibitions that depend on publicity have produced smartphone apps. These allow those attending - as well as those who cannot - better to appreciate what is on offer. Examples are apps for the Tribeca, Sundance and Hong Kong Film Festivals. Also in Hong Kong is the annual Art Basel show. There is an app for it. . . .
There are a number of world-class art festivals each year and among them, Art Basel Hong Kong has a particular importance, with its mix of Asian and Western Art. The inaugural show was in 2013 and this year it is to run from 15 - 18 May at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). The app, Art Basel in Hong Kong, is well thought-out and likely to be of considerable help to those attending the show. It is optimised for the iPhone 5. I examined it on the iPhone 5s.
Established in 1970, Art Basel also organises such exhibitions in Basel (19 - 22 June) and Miami Beach (4 - 7 December). The Hong Kong show will have works from more than 2,000 artists, "including pieces by established artists, newly emerging artists and curated projects" (Art Basel). Galleries from all over the world represent the artists and there is also a good selection of films and other related events available in the six show sectors.
The use of an app means that those attending can have a full idea of the works (and artists) to be featured as well as plan for any visit to the Convention hall. The free app is full of information organised in logical sections:
- Galleries - a full list of all exhibiting galleries (organised alphabetically or by country), with details of the gallery, contact information as well as artists represented: some artwork images are also included by each of the galleries whose pages I accessed.
- Artists - like galleries (above), there is a full list of artists, many of whom are well-known. Examples include Marc Chagall, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Paul Klee, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and many more (2000+).
- Artworks showed small thumbnail images of works organised in decades: pre 1900 up to now, with the vast majority being from this century (the decades beginning 2000 and 2010). Tapping on a thumbnail displayed a slightly larger version of the work along with some details as well as information about Gallery and Artist.
- Exhibition Sectors is organised into Galleries, Insights, Discoveries, Encounters and Magazines.
- Event Program, like other sections had several sub-sections more useful to those attending: Art Basel Events, Talks, Film, Openings, Receptions, Guided Tours, and Bar and Lounge. Each of these provided more information.
Each of the sections and the Main Menu panel had useful links at the bottom of the screen: Menu; Map (2D and 3D); Favourites, so that the user could note specific items or events to view; and Search, which was itself split into sections for Galleries, Artists, Program and Visitor Information.
Below the major sections are a number of other useful (or important) links:
- Visitor Information - linking to over 20 sections (like Opening Hours, Visitors with Disbilities, FAQs, Lavatory, Coat Check, et al;
- UBS - a major partner. This section is not simply an advertisement for the Bank, but links to other Art-related information as well as external links;
- News - updated frequently, with 5 entries for yesterday and (so far) 3 today;
- Facebook - a link to the social networking site;
- VIP Login - I did not have a password, so could not examine this. . .
Several of the entries, like Artists and Artworks, lead the user to the Galleries where there are more details (and pictures) for the user to view. Both the Galleries and the Artists sections also had the word "Action" near the top of each panel. When this was tapped, a grey screen appeared with the words Camera, Take a Note, Add to Addressbook, Show on Map, Favorite and Share shown. The words spun clockwise as they appeared. Tapping any one of these accessed more functions on the iPhone or the app. Camera accessed that iPhone feature, while Take a Note opened a panel in the app with the keyboard ready for use.
Likewise, Add to Addressbook opened the iPhone Contacts app while Show on Map displayed the in-app map. Favorite added any entry to the Favorites menu for easy access. Share gave me access to AirDrop, Message, Mail, Twitter and Facebook as well as an "Add to Reading List" item.
The app is well made and some hard work has gone into its organisation, as well as into the way it integrates with the iPhone features as well as its own internal items. I am impressed with the way the app works with the hundreds and hundreds of images which stand out well with the orange border and white background. Art Basel in Hong Kong is a good demonstration of how a new medium (the smartphone app) is able to complement the old media (Art) and make more of the exhibition visit: before, during and after.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.