I wasn’t looking for a real relationship with a work of art. I just wanted to see what was out there. The Bruce Lee poster hanging on my bedroom wall and I had been together for six years. We’d met at Pearl River Mart on Canal Street, among the birdcages and dragon kites. I took him home with me that night. Wearing a yellow bodysuit, he wielded his nunchucks over my bed. Soon, I put him in a black dollar-store frame and used nails to hang him up instead of tape: a real commitment. We were happy, for a while. But I was too young to get serious with Bruce. We had a talk and I told him I wanted to download Wydr, the new “Tinder for buying art,” and do a little experimenting. He was bummed, but understood.
Even though art is everywhere in New York City, it can be really hard to find a piece you want to settle down with. Galleries are full of works always looking for a richer, hotter buyer. It can seem like every decent piece of art you’re actually attracted to is already “owned.” Honestly, I didn’t think Wydr would help much. How desperate does an artwork have to be to try to sell itself on an app?
I wasn’t alone: I would be joining some “five digit” number of Wydr users in this digitized search for art-love, which is run by a startup in Switzerland. The company explains how it works on the website: Artists around the world upload images of their work to the app’s database, and users can swipe right or left to “like” or “dislike” each piece. Works you like are added to your “personal gallery.” “By changing the way users interact with art and offering them a Tinder-like way to tap into the art market, we break down traditional barriers and reinvent the interaction between artist and art lover,” the website says.
I downloaded the app, ready for a reinvented interaction. Sara Spring’s “Pointillism Girl” popped up on the screen first: a speckly nude woman shown from behind, holding her hair up in a pile on her head. It looked like some kind of “pointillism” filter had been applied to make the figure look mysterious, or maybe to disguise a skin condition. Her back looked nice, but there were no face shots. I swiped left.
The next piece was “everything” by Yagmur Turan, showing the word “everything” in dripping white paint against a splotchy background. It was some kind of Basquiat wannabe — the type that, on a first date, brags about its roots in graffiti and street art and how it’s not into the commercial gallery circuit because of the capitalist pigs, even though it’s selling itself for $1,692.
The title of Marc Dietrich’s “Inner excitement” seemed like the equivalent of a Tinder profile that says “I’m a super fun guy!”; it did not provoke inner (or outer) excitement. Peter Loretan’s “Paris Texas 2016,” a painting of a man on a train platform at sunset, seemed like it was trying hard to be both edgy and romantic, but I worried it was actually sleazy and might roofie me in a wine bar. Roshi’s “The Connections,” featuring textured swaths of red and blue, was the kind of AbEx ripoff that lurks in a boutique hotel lobby trying to look sophisticated, but ends up clashing with the Marimekko couches.
I was intrigued by Barbara Bosch’s “cows in blue,” a drawing of three cows (in blue), but then I realized that I just liked cows, not this drawing, and that cute animals in pictures are the ultimate Tinder trap. Still, for morale, I “hearted” it, so it got saved to “My Gallery,” where I could revisit it later and decide if I wanted to actually meet it in person. In the back of my mind, though, I knew already that I didn’t — that cows would never be better than Bruce.
With each left swipe, I felt increasingly hopeless about ever finding a piece of art I could truly love, that could replace the faded Bruce Lee poster that nunchucked its way into my heart years before. Demoralized, I threw my phone across the room and sat staring at Bruce. I had never loved him more.
Wydr is available for free in the App store or on Google Play.