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Tech by VICE

Talking to the Founder of "Shazam for the Art World"

New iOS app Magnus gives you all the information you could ever want about a work of art. All you need to do is point your smartphone camera at it.

by Andrew Nunes
Apr 18 2016, 3:35pm

Images: Magnus.net

Joining the ranks of art world tools like Artsy and ArtRank, brand new app, Magnus, is being toted as the Shazam of the art world.

Simple and to-the-point, the Magnus user only needs to point their smartphone at an artwork seen in a gallery, and instantly a plethora of information becomes available on their device. Title, artist name, medium, and dimensions are listed, allowing even uninitiated art viewer to understand to basic components of the work. Perhaps most importantly, Magnus also shows the latest market price of the work, whether this is the figure fetched at auction or if it is the gallery’s current asking price for the work.

The brain behind Magnus is 31-year-old German art entrepreneur Magnus Resch, best known for co-founding Larry’s List, a database of contemporary art collectors, and for his brutally honest literary exposé on gallery inefficiency, Management of Galleries.

Resch and his team have been developing Magnus since 2013, a lengthy period due, in part, to the enormous database that the app requires. At the moment, Magnus boasts the recognition of over 8,000,000 works of art across a plethora of mediums, an impressive feat that will only grow larger as the art world produces more work. The only challenge the app faces is video, which currently are not recognized by the app, but Resch tells The Creators Project that “Amazon, Google, and many other are working on advancing [the image recognition technology]. It’s just a matter of time until users can capture videos with our app.”

For the creation and maintaining of the database, Resch has enlisted a popular and modern form of help: crowd-sourcing. “Our users supply us with all images; they take a photo with the app and thereby add it to the database,” Resch explains. “Our job is to keep the database clean and review prices users add. Already today, we own the world’s largest database for contemporary art—free for everyone to use.”

Despite the market-mindedness of Magnus and issues surrounding commodification, Resch believes his app doesn’t contribute to this problem—it only helps those already engaged with the system: “Why is it ethically wrong to show users prices of an artwork they are interested in? If you are willing to spend $10,000 on an artwork, you should know that another gallery put the work on auction a year ago for $7,000 and it didn’t sell,” Resch explains. “Knowing this will allow the collector to make a more conscious decision.”

So far, it seems that the art world agrees with Resch and is embracing Magnus and its enormous and informative archive: “I received overwhelmingly positive feedback from artists, gallerists, and collectors. Not one single gallery asked us to take down the works,” Resch enthusiastically points out. “I cannot wait to launch it in more cities.”

Magnus is currently available for free download on iOS through the App Store. Click here to try it for yourself. 

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