A new app allows users to scan artworks with their Smartphone camera and get information on them as well as create a digital collection.

The app, called Smartify, uses image recognition software to retrieve the artwork from a database of digitised works. Then, the user can see information on the artwork, such as the artist, the title of the work, when it was created etc.

According to Thanos Kokkiniotis, co-founder of Smartify, the creation of the app was not that hard, since many museums and galleries already have digitised versions of their collection. However, convincing the institutions to allow access to their digitised collections by the app was more difficult.

The difference between Smartify and digital artwork collections, such as Google’s Art Project, is that the app can complement people’s actual visit to the gallery rather than just providing remote access on the users’ screen.

Institutions allowing visitors the use of the application will also benefit from it. They will be able to access demographic information about the people who use the app and the works they scan, information which they will be consequently able to use to inform their marketing and advertising. Also, according to co-founder Anna Lowe, users of the app will have their data anonymised, unless they want to share it, in which case they would just have to log in.

There has been, though, some scepticism expressed by some who are reluctant regarding the use of Smartphones in galleries. Kevin Walker, at the Royal College of Art in London, says, for instance, that quite often visitors go to museums “to have an unplugged experience”.

Others, say that encouraging the use of Smartphones to immediately retrieve information on an artwork deprives art-gallery visitors of the chance to appreciate an artwork instinctively and then use their mind to find the right path and comprehend it. Then, further research on their own will allow them to better understand and remember the information on the work, artist, etc.

The application will launch in May, for selected artworks at the Louvre in Paris, France, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and all the artworks at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Wallace Collection in London.