The AGO Express Yourself App is Like Instagram for Art Enthusiasts

Attention all photography-obsessed smartphone owners, there’s a new and engaging photo app out there that wants to teach you more about art with museum-inspired filters and a personalized virtual gallery, just recently launched by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The free new  mobile app, called AGO Express Yourself, was designed to encourage AGO visitors and the public find creative ways to discover and express themselves through artistic movements and media. Of course, it’s no Instagram killer, but it’s at least a bit of a nice change from all those over-saturated, faded and blurry filters we’re all too used to seeing these days.

“The AGO Express Yourself app allows users to make art in five different exciting artistic styles, and to share their unique creations with their online friends and community,” said Steve Rayment, director of marketing, design and publicity at the AGO.

The five artistic styles on the app include cubism, impressionism, pop art, sculpture and collage. Snap a photo through the in-app camera (or choose a photo from your camera roll) and instantly transform it into broken up pieces of Picasso-like art or convert it into short, thick strokes of paint to resemble the work of Monet or Van Gogh.

Similar to Instagram’s user interface, the app lets you scroll through each effect using a menu on the bottom of the screen and lets you preview each style before setting it permanently to the photo. After that, you can tweak the colour saturation, colour tint and brush texture.

Once finished, you can share the photo on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr straight from the app. Photos are automatically saved in the app and hung on your very own virtual gallery wall. Although there are only five filters to choose from at the moment, the AGO has said that they definitely plan to bring more artsy filters to the app in future versions.

The biggest drawback to this nifty new app probably has to be its painfully slow response and loading time. Be prepared to wait a good, long five to 10 seconds each time you tap to navigate through the app and maybe even longer when snapping a photo, waiting for it to load and applying filters or edits to it. It tends to crash every now and then, which is kind of a bummer when you’re in the middle of editing a photo. We’re hoping that speeding up the performance and fixing those bugs will be on the priority list for future versions.

Despite the obvious improvements the app needs, it’s great to see one of North America’s most distinguished art museums take such iconic and historically rich art movements and roll them into mobile technology and social media. The AGO Express Yourself app also compliments the official Art Gallery of Ontario app, which launched last year.

So can it compete well against other successful photo apps like Camera+, Hipstamatic, IncrediBooth, Snapseed and all the rest? Canadian art enthusiasts will have to decide for themselves.

The AGO Express Yourself app is available for iOS devices on iTunes, for Android devices on Google Play and there’s a web-based version that can be used at