Most things suck when they become too popular. Really. Like a pair of shoes you’d been wearing for years before some magazine declared them in--and all of the sudden you match every preteen on the street.
Monet’s Water Lilies collection is one of the few things in the universe that’s somehow unflappable in the face of extreme popularity. There’s some inherent beauty going on that you can’t be snobby about, one that’s basically exempt from parody (I’ve seen the Mona Lisa with a moustache more times than I can count, but I’ve never seen someone mock a Monet).
Maybe that’s why NYBG in Bloom, a new, free iPhone app, is so fun. A collaboration of the New York Botanical Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and multimedia design firm Local Projects, it’s a virtual walkthrough of the Garden’s current reproduction of Monet’s famous Garden at Giverny.
The app is just downright functional, starting with an overhead view of the Garden, then touring the exhibits through audio clips that run while you flip through each area’s photographs. There are no virtual tour gimmicks--strange 3-D-ish panoramas--just straightforward content that’s explorable on a user’s terms. Then, when you’re done with the tour, you can look at Monet’s own paintings inspired by his garden--that’s the Met’s contribution.
But the most marketable feature of the app is probably its Impressionist Lens filter. Imagine Instagram by Monet and you’ll get an idea of the effect. In a quick test, I found it surprisingly neat--a gimmick, sure, but a great one. Unfortunately, you can’t just save these photos to your phone outright. You need to email them to yourself and friends, each time you take them. It’s obviously an email-farming trick, but it also means the Garden is missing out on the potential to go viral with hashtag sharing on Twitter.
That said, it’s a great, free download for the iOS that has plenty of Monet along with a few UI tricks that developers should check out. And, not to spoil the mood, but everyone is sort of tired of all our artsy Instagram shots anyway.