You already know what a sizable percentage of humanity’s wit, wisdom and culture is readily beam-downable to that device you keep in your pocket (and that might not be the safest place to keep it, by the way). But what if, on those (hopefully frequent) days when you’ve a yen to browse some art, you didn’t need to risk the hit-or-miss of an amorphous image search, but instead could just invite an already curated collection onto your phone, and into your heart and soul?
All praise, then, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. SFMOMA has harnessed the twin progressive pillars of cellular technology, and their own collection, to make artwork more accessible than ever before. They call it Send Me SFMOMA, and it’s a way of making their entire catalog (only 5 percent of which is on display at any given time) yours for the texting. Works like this: Send a text to 57251; include the message “Send me”– followed by anything you intuit is the proper prompt for the artwork you need to see. Could be a name, a description, a color, even an emoji. The guesswork is half the fun—I tried Send me brilliance, Send me insight, and Send me horror, only to be told by SFMOMA’s fast-acting AI that matches could not be found. The request shown here for Dada, though, yielded a surprisingly apt piece, albeit one surprisingly anachronistic. Likewise the Send me America result at the top of this page might have been enough to spin the cranium of one of our newly minted chest-thumping nationalists. A timely reminder that Vespucci lent his name to not just one country, but actually a pair of continents? A teachable moment initiated by that aforementioned AI? Why not.
Because art does teach, and exposure to the wide realm of cultural inspiration changes minds, broadens perspectives, and forges oh-so-necessary connections. We become a community of appreciators, and a tribe of seekers after understanding. Or at the very least, we seize an opportunity to see something we’d never seen, which in turn must make us think of things that’d otherwise never come to mind.
The kind of art that induces this marvelous effect is all around—it’s in your local gallery but also on the mural down the street, and maybe even on the paper or canvas before you that you’d limn if only you could find the time. You are the creator and the consumer, and the seeker and the learner, if only in the potential state. Perhaps for your sanity, for all of ours, you need to find a way to turn potentiality to actuality.
Could the start of that journey be a mere text message away? That seems trite and unlikely…but still. The number again is 57251. Hadn’t you better check it out?