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Bored with your ugly TV? Time to go on an art kick

High-definition television is great… when you’re watching your favourite show. But click the off button and all you’re left with are big, black, and somewhat unpleasant rectangles. Beyond investing in custom cabinetry, roll down covers, antique armoires, multi-function mirrors and other expensive disguises, shouldn’t there be an easier way to kick your décor up a notch?

The eight visionaries behind Artkick think so. After just nine months, the start-up company is launching a free app that turns any Internet-connected television into a virtual art gallery.

“We’re trying to do for digital images what iTunes and others have done for music,” says Artkick’s chief marketing officer Stephen Kahn.

Essentially, Artkick is a streaming service that provides curated view lists, analogous to media play lists. More than 50,000 digital images are initially available, ranging from fine art to licensed contemporary photography to space images from NASA, all of which are available in the public domain. Getting started is as easy as downloading the free Artkick app to your smartphone or tablet which then becomes an intelligent TV remote, allowing you to ‘play’ selected images on your TV.

To some extent, the company is setting out to “eliminate the ugliness” of today’s flat-screen televisions. But on another note, it aims to enrich lives by making it easier to share art. An Artkick user choosing to display American Gothic by Grant Wood, for example, can tap on the artist’s name to learn more about him. In some instances, educational videos explaining works are also available.

“If you need an excuse to go out and buy a larger HDTV for the Super Bowl, tell your spouse you want to educate your kids about art,” jokes Kahn.

Newer TV models come equipped with wireless Internet capability. Older models require a streaming player like Roku. The Artkick app currently supports iOS and Android devices and is available for download from iTunes and Google Play stores, as well as

Once the app is downloaded, users have the option of selecting from built-in view lists, similar to using a TV Guide, or creating their own. The company is also expanding Artkick to include access to photo sharing services like SmugMug and Flickr as well, says Kahn.

“There are a couple of reasons why people don’t buy art. One is affordability. The other is permanence; you have to make a commitment to a piece that you’re going to like forever,” he adds. “Just as you play music to suit your mood, Artkick allows you to do the same thing with images.”

Artkick founders weren’t the first to envision a world of infinitely interchangeable art displayed on flat scan panels. Billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates had the same dream as early as the late 1980s when he incorporated a first-of-its-kind video wall in his Medina, Washington, mansion.

Unlike Gates, who spent millions amassing the world’s largest digital art library at the time, Artkick users get the same experience for free, says Kahn.

“The free service needs to be compelling for us to build a large audience,” he says. “Over time we will overlay premium services, but the free service will always be there and it will always get better.”

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