From left to right:’s offering, an avant-garde app from Dutch artist Jonas Staal, My Biennale Guide by lightbox, and Artadoo.

Just like any self-respecting modern spectacle, the Venice Biennale has spawned a healthy coterie of iOS apps. It isn’t entirely clear how large the market is for these things, given the scale of the Biennale and the attendant difficulty of meaningfully indexing the shows. Christie’s, for instance, launched an iOS app for the last Biennale in 2011, but it appears the auction house decided against replicating the venture this year. Regardless, we have taken it upon ourselves to definitively, scientifically, rank the offerings available to this year’s iPhone-equipped Venice-goer.

4. Artadoo is the only developer offering both an iOS and an Android app, both browsable only in Italian — though once you click through to the listings, which are hosted on Artadoo, you can read longer descriptions in English. If you can navigate the interface-level Italian, the Prufrock effect of these two layers of language might be charming; if you’re on an iPad you might be able to make it obvious to passers-by what a cosmopolitan software sophisticate you are. Otherwise, skip it.


The Ideological Guide (in-app screenshot)

3. My Biennale Guide by lightbox is available both in free (web-connected) and $1.99 (offline-accessible) versions, and has a serviceable interface, though the pink background is retina-scorching and it’s very easy to fat-finger the menus — unless, of course, you’re using a stylus. Next.

2. The Ideological Guide is a project of the artist Jonas Staal, and it was funded by an international consortium of foundations who presumably really want you to consider the geopolitical alliances that exist and have existed between nations showing at the Venice Biennale. Unfortunately, the utterly decontextualized and arbitrary selections (“Arab League,” “Warsaw Pact,” “Coalition of the Willing”) have an air of Wiki-regurgitation, affecting a vacant profundity and lacking any sense of coherence or meaning. Wouldn’t a true “ideological guide” actually index, well, ideological affiliations? To Staal’s credit, the app is well-designed, and — when it works — actually quite beautiful, effectively displaying the “vital stats” of every national pavilion overlaid on an alluring cartographic interface. Like the semi-thought out concept, however, the execution is pretty flimsy, and the app frequently hangs and crashes.

1. Surprisingly enough,‘s Biennale 2013 offering is our favorite, even though the interface is far and away the stodgiest of the bunch. The reason is simple: the app is responsive and easy to navigate. The “ArtWall” feature, though somewhat gimmicky, gives you a tiled visual directory in the style of Instagram, and the calendar feature — which, content-wise, is universal across these apps — is the most intuitively structured among the pack.

Search the App Store for these and previous Venice Biennale applications for iOS devices.

Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.