New York-based Eli Wilner is one of the art world’s most renowned framers. His clients include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sotheby’s, and Christie’s; he’s framed Picassos and the 21-foot-long painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” In the digital age, though, when billions more images are floating in cyberspace than are hanging on physical walls, even a powerhouse like Wilner might fear the picture frame is losing relevance.
To adapt the framing business to the digital age, and to make images of his frames — some of which cost up to $250,000 — accessible to the masses, Wilner has just launched a free iPhone and iPad app, eWilner Frames. It lets you regally frame your digital art, or your selfies, or your photos of doughnuts (more on that later). When you place any picture from your phone or tablet’s camera roll into one of more than 100 frames from the company’s collection, its classiness increases a thousandfold, Wilner suggests. “Throughout the history of art, frames have been essential to the presentation of pictures,” Wilner told the New York Times. “In the digital age, as more people take and share photographs, it’s important that we not forget how great frames can also enhance pictures from their wedding, honeymoon, or bar mitzvah, and make them special.”
Testing out the eWilner app provided me with a brief lesson in the history of framing, while also raising concerns about the number of photos of doughnuts saved to my phone. That concern subsided, though, when Wilner’s digital frames transformed these doughnut photos into classical still lifes. An intricate 17th century Bolognese “cauliculi” frame carved with a lion’s head really brought out the glaze in this photograph of a box of Krispy Kremes. (Actual frame price: $85,000.)
A doodle of a similar box of donuts, drawn while I sat hungry on a train, looked gallery-ready in a 20th century flat frieze with silver leaf finish. (Actual frame price: $45,000).
A photograph of a cinnamon roll baked by a friend took on enigmatic depth when framed in a 19th-century “gilded cassetta” style frame embellished with punchwork. (Actual frame price: $18,500.)
And the eWilner frames improved more than just photographs of baked goods. A dark walnut frame with ripple moldings from 17th century Europe beautifully highlighted the purple typography in a poetic Yahoo Answers query about the meaning of the lyrics to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men (but it didn’t help answer the question). (Actual frame price: $65,000.)
The app’s only downside is that it offers the user just four digital facsimiles of Wilner frames to use for free — the four pictured above. Each additional frame represents a ¢99 in-app purchase. You can still browse Wilner’s digital collection and learn obscure information about frame history and frame pricing, if that’s your thing. But if you want to frame a photo in, say, a 1915 oval mirror frame by famed Swedish-born woodcarver Walfred Thulin, you’ll have to pay a dollar — which is still $64,999 cheaper than the actual frame’s price, so won’t put too much of a dent in your doughnut budget.
The eWilner Frames app is available for iPhone and iPad from the iTunes store here.