I’ll admit it: I was sceptical. I figured that Samsung’s push into art on a TV would look like, well, art being displayed on a TV. In other words, unimpressive. But at last night’s launch of The Frame, Samsung proved me unduly cynical.
The Frame is a special Samsung TV – available in 55 and 65 inches – that does the usual smart TV stuff, but spends its “down time” as a work of art. Actually, a hundred works of art, with the option of more.
In other words, when you notionally switch it off, rather than existing in your room as a large black slab, it displays a work of art.
So, how do I know it works, that it looks like a real picture with real art, and not just a TV displaying a picture? As I entered the launch venue near the top of Sydney’s The Strand Arcade, there were a couple of dozen works of art on the walls and, damn, as far as I could tell, every single one of them was real. But I’d done a little reading before venturing out that evening so I figured I’d be able to work it out. Some of them, surely, were TVs, not artworks.
And of course, I did work it out. There turned out to be six items that were not paint and paper and and canvas, but glass and copper and silicon. Apparently hanging from the wall, just like the art works around them, canted slightly forward, with the bottom edges pressed against the wall and their top edges leaning forward a dozen millimetres.
The first clue was that one was right in the centre of a display wall, clearly the focus of that wall. I moved close to it and there was a hint of a very slight pattern in what should have been the flat, even surface of the paint work. I peered more closely and, yes, there were pixels!
(By “closely” I mean that I put on my reading glasses and by peering from 20cm away, I was able to make them out.)
Then I noticed on the frame the subtle imprint: “Samsung”. It was on the right side, printed sideways near the top. Yes, that was the TV. But as I stepped back, my confidence waned. It really did look just like a painting, or perhaps a print. Under glass, to be sure, but so were all the “real” paintings and prints.
Later, as I wandered the hall and examined things closely, I found some more “tells”. The most obvious one: the underside of the picture frame at the bottom had cut outs to provide access to some connections.
Obvious, that is, if you think to bend over and look up at the underside of an artwork. As one does.
So, colour (ha, ha!) me impressed. I’d note that this isn’t the first time that Samsung has been doing the art-by-TV thing. It must have been ten years ago when premium Samsung panel TVs came with art works available for display. I’m stretching my memory here, but I think this may have even been before ubiquitous TV network connectivity. I could be wrong on that. I do remember that the pictures were a mixture of meh, and classics, but there were only something like a dozen, and they really did look like a TV displaying a picture.
Things are very different with Samsung’s The Frame.
Okay, I know, people come here not to read our reflections on art, but our expertise on TVs and other gadgets. So let’s get into the nitty gritty of how they do it.