If you’re wondering where to go for your fix or art and culture over the holidays, the answer may be right in your pocket. There’s a universe of mobile apps dedicated to giving you high quality, curated art experiences that are literally at your fingertips. Here’s a round up of the five most interesting art-related mobile apps that featured on the charts in 2020.

    Google Arts & Culture

    A mobile-friendly version of the ever popular web platform Google Arts & Culture, this app has been around since 2016. However, in late 2019 it soared to the top of the charts in the App Store and Google Play Store and has stayed there ever since. Behind this explosive growth was the addition of a feature called “Art Selfie”, the art world version of the runaway PopSugar app Twinning, which pairs up users’ selfies with celebrity lookalikes. Art Selfie uses Google Arts & Culture’s massive database of artworks to suggest matches between users and the subjects of historical paintings.

    - Available on iOS and Android, Free


    2020 saw US-based startup Artsy swiftly rise to the pinnacle of the online art market, offering a mobile app which enables you to discover and buy artworks from around the world at a wide range of price points. The app has a feature which allows you to "try on" artworks on your own walls using AR. But what really distinguishes the Artsy app is its recommendation function. Arty employs a highly sophisticated algorithm to link and sort artworks based on a range of complex characteristics. Called the Art Genome, this algorithm is used to curate recommendations for users based on their viewing history and artworks they have liked or saved. It’s like Spotify for art, and it’s frighteningly accurate.

    - Available on iOS and Android, Free

    Procreate Pocket

    For the true enthusiast, sometimes looking at other people’s art is not quite enough. Procreate Pocket gives users the tools to create digital artworks using the touch interface of their mobile phones. It’s hands down the most popular mobile app for creating digital drawings and paintings that can be saved to your device or shared within the app.  This neat little powerhouse is loaded with features but lightweight and fast, even on older devices. Unfortunately, it’s only for iOS users, and, at a once-off fee of R75, it’s not free.

    - Available on iOS, ZAR 75

    Just a Line

    Like Procreate Pocket, Just a Line enables you to make your own digital artworks. But this app takes them to the next level. Using AR technology, Just a Line makes it possible to create 3D virtual drawings that can then be “placed” in your surrounding environment, as viewed through the lens of your phone’s camera. With no fancy equipment needed to begin drawing, this is the perfect tool to begin exploring the world of AR art.

    - Available on iOS and Android, Free

    JCAF mobile app

    Finally, here’s one that didn’t quite rock the charts but deserves a mention anyway. The newly opened Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation (JCAF) has developed a native app designed to augment the museum visitor’s experience of the artworks on display. The app synchronises with Bluetooth beacons installed in the exhibition space to push information to a user’s mobile device when they come in proximity to an artwork. It’s a simple strategy, but one that greatly enriches the exhibition-going experience.

    - Available on iOS and Android, Free

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    Anthea Kemp