This site presents the ten best paintings in the world, as determined by market value, that is, their sale price at public auction or in private transaction, translated into 2018 US dollars, and makes them better by applying Instagram’s Clarendon filter, intensifying and cleansing each image, thereby rendering them more suitable for screen-based circulation and consumption.
Tap or click on the pictures on this site to flip between their filtered and their unfiltered states, all of which are previewed in the image below.
Of the 24 available filters on Instagram, Clarendon is by far the most widely used, or rather, the most widely used after Normal, which shows the image in its original ur-state, which is to say, subject only to the massive amount of color balancing, exposure correction, image stabilization, computer vision and content-aware machine learning that occurs on modern digital cameras and camera phones in the milliseconds between you taking the shot and ‘seeing’ the result.
Our approximation of the Clarendon filter uses color curves to algorithmically adjust the red, green and blue channels of each image. The filtered image is brighter, higher contrast, the colors more saturated in the upper registers, and ‘cleaner’ in the sense of being suffused with a blueish white light, as though laundered in an aggressive modern detergent. You can see this happening in the color curves below.
First, the ‘S’-shape of each color channel reveals that the shadows are being darkened and the highlights lightened, that is, the contrast of the image is being heightened.
Second, the movement of each channel’s color curve towards the upper left corner, away from the 45 degree diagonal, indicates that the image is being lightened, not only in the highlights but also in the mid-tones.
Third, the differences between the red, green and blue channels make it clear that reddish tones are being suppressed, especially in the lower registers, while blueish hues are being intensified across all tonalities.
The result is a brighter, higher contrast, more saturated image that not only ‘pops’ in the mode of commercial imagery and advertising but also tends towards a blueish white light, away from the longer wavelengths of sun and fire, of mud and earth, and towards the nature of light emitted by commercial signage, computer monitors, and, of course, our phones, an image more dialled in to our screen-mediated subjectivity, more attuned to the teeth-whitened aesthetic default of the early 21st century. Hence, better, at least for us, at least for now.