Arts Desk

National Gallery of Art Launches Mobile App, “Your Art”

The National Gallery of Art debuted its new app for iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches last week. Called "Your Art," the app includes two self-guided gallery tours, as well as a list of events and exhibitions, high-resolution versions of some of the museum's best-known works, and visitor information.

The app's Collection Highlights tour includes 138 permanent works, all of them located in the gallery's West Building. App users can zoom in on the artworks, read about the origins of each piece, and listen to short audio commentaries by curators, conservators, and Director Earl A. Powell III. If you listen to the accompanying narration for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bolero in "Chilperic," you'll get a description of the artist's use of color and his personal relationship with the subject. The app's 47-item Kid's Tour, meanwhile, is more playful and creative, with sound effects and punchy narration.

The app will continue to expand over time. NGA officials hope to include artworks in the East Building within the next year. In the next few months, 26 objects from the current app will be available in five foreign languages (Spanish, French, Mandarin, Russian, and Japanese). Plans for an American Sign Language component of the app are also in progress.

Since the app focuses predominantly on the museum's permanent collection, information about temporary exhibits is much more limited. Other large installations at the gallery, including the sculpture garden and Alexander Calder's mobile, don't get much attention. Regardless, the app eats up a lot of room: When you open the app for the first time, you're prompted to download 298 megabytes of data.

But visitors may still consider the app a helpful tool. It includes an interactive map of the building's works, and it eliminates the need for a guided-tour headset. It also has a helpful, up-to-date list of all events taking place at the gallery. The free app is available now in the iTunes store. Gallery officials hope to eventually build an Android version.

No Apple product? Borrow one of the 20 available iPod Touches from the West Building Audio Tour Desk—they're all loaded with the app, and you don't have to download a thing.

Image courtesy National Gallery of Art

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