If a picture speaks a 1000 words, can you imagine what a GIF might be worth? According to Alex Chung, the CEO of Giphy, averaging at 60 frames, a GIF would convey 60,000 words – the same as the average novel. And while you might think GIFs are a millennial thing – they’re actually 33 years old! Unbelievable eh?
These looped images pack so much emotion in them that they commonly replace worded texts! Whether its ‘White Guy blinking’, the meeting-your-boss-at-the-exit-gate or Wolf of Wall Street Leo-toasting, GIFS have crept their way into personal conversation, ad campaigns and even PSAs by the Mumbai Police!
But GIFs also lend themselves well to visual art. Given it’s simple format and small size, GIFs bring alive a narrative moment in artworks. You could say, GIFs are part of an independent art movement – in fact Europeana has been giving away awards for the best art-inspired GIFs since 2013.
Take a look at 10 of our favourite Art-GIFs
1) Fireworks at Ryogoku
Brighten up those electronic birthday cards with ‘Ryogoku Hanabi no Zu‘ or ‘Fireworks at Ryogoku‘ GIF! Although Japanese painter Utagawa Hiroshige’s depicted a New Year’s Eve fireworks show, this GIF is perfect for any celebration! Check out the original at the RijksMuseum in Amsterdam.
2) Woman playing the cittern
Jan Steen’s painting showing a woman plucking her sistrum is all of us in the lockdown, learning a new hobby to distract ourselves from the gloom. Which song do you think she’s playing?
3) The Desperate Man
Gustav Courbet’s Desperate Man has been turned into Exasperated Man! What do you think he’s rolling his eyes at? Send this GIF next time you get into an argument! We bet you’ll win that round!
4) The Fruit Sorters
No time to head to the gym? Don’t worry Mark Gertler’s Fruit Sorters have got you covered. And if you get tired of the sit ups you can always grab a few fruits from those baskets! You can check out the original at the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in Leicester.
5) Time Transfixed
Unlike Rene Magritte’s original work, this GIF is not transfixed. Besides the obvious train and the clock, notice how the shadow on the ground moves along with the train and the smoke from the locomotive reflects on the mirror. Doesn’t this remind you of Platform Nine and Three Quarters and the Hogwarts Express? This one, originally from the Art Institute Chicago, is perhaps our favourite!
6) Creation of Adam
While there are countless interpretations and memes of this Italian fresco, our favourite is this GIF! God and Adam too seem to be have a problem with the slow Wi-Fi – See how they’re tapping in frustration? Half a millennium later, Michelangelo’s work is still inspiring!
7) Match Girl
“Don’t play with matches!” – A GIF to the rescue for when the kids don’t take your words seriously enough! This 1820 engraving by Thomas Lord Busby is from the New York Public Library.
8) Two Sikh men dueling with wooden swords
These two Sikh men from the Wellcome Collection seem to have taken ‘meet me outside’ quite literally. What do you think they’re fighting about? Maybe the last glass of Lassi? Or it could well be us against 2020. Who knows!
Now we all know how the Manticore lost it’s head! The manticore was a mythical creature (Asian origin) with the body of a lion, the head of a man, and the tail of a scorpion; known to be a lethal predator. Wonder what triggered the bird though – did he scare her children while she was away?! You can check out the original at the British Library.
10) Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander
Girl’s got moves! What song played at the Tate Museum has made the 8-year-old Miss Cicely Alexander groove like this? The butterflies seem to be enjoying the tunes too!
Most of the above GIFs were created for the international GIF-IT-UP challenge. Good news is, artworks from the DAG Museums (India) collection are part of the 2020 GIF challenge.