"We are the National Geographic of the art world," says Olivier Berger, co-creator of Wondereur, a new iPad app that's a cross between a commercial art gallery and a magazine.
Profiling a new, largely unsung Toronto-based artist every week, the free app, developed by Berger, arts journalist Sophie Perceval and former CBC producer Angelica Fox, gives viewers an intimate glimpse into the artists' homes and studios, using photo essays and in-their-own-words commentary to reveal the creative process – and personalities – behind the work. Each artist is hand-picked by a local art expert and all the featured works are available for purchase sans gallery fee with the tap of a finger.
As its name suggests, Wondereur's brand of storytelling is diaristic, imparting the sense, as one navigates through images of the artists at work in their inner sanctums, that a discovery is unfolding: "Artists are like cosmonauts," Berger explains. "They take risks in exploring new frontiers."
One of those risk-takers is Walter Segers, a Belgian-born photographer who, in his boundary-pushing work (featured on the app and in the image to the left), places Ken dolls in witty staged scenarios that are a blend of autobiography and wistful make-believe. "It's a fantasy world that I would love to see as being real," says Segers, who began shooting the series depicting the dolls as couples years before same-sex marriage was legalized in Ontario.
While his art explores the interplay of public and private identity, he found it an "odd" experience to open up his home and studio to Wondereur's lens. That said, he's all for the enterprise. His recent exposure on the app has resulted in both sales of his work and invitations to show in Canada and abroad. What's more, he credits Wondereur for the deft way that it "brings the experience of art into people's living rooms and, [through] a small 8-by-10 screen, encourages understanding."
Besides Segers, other artists currently featured on the app include Elise Victoria Louise Windsor, Alyssa Bistonath and Elisa Julia Gilmour. Berger and his partners also plan to establish versions for New York and Paris by year's end.
Download the Wondereur app free from Apple's App Store or view the Web app at www.wondereur.com.