With Eli Wilner, the line between a work of art and its frame is one that scarcely exists. His antique or hand-carved frames, which sell for up to $250,000, can be seen in the White House, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, surrounding works by artists like O'Keeffe, Monet, and Cézanne. Wilner even framed one of the world's most expensive Picasso paintings, which sold for $106.5 million.
“Throughout the history of art,” Wilner told The New York Times, “frames have been essential to the presentation of pictures.” It makes sense, then, that the master framer would extend his practice to the latest and most prolific artistic movement: the photos we snap with our phones.
eWilner Frames, the Times reports, is an iOS app that allows users to elevate their selfies and cat pics by putting them into one of the more than 100 frames Wilner has designed over the course of his career. The app is free and includes four of his iconic designs, but a much wider selection of frames is available for purchase in-app (most will set you back about 99 cents).
“In the digital age, as more people take and share photographs, it’s important that we not forget how great frames can also enhance pictures from their wedding, honeymoon or bar mitzvah, and make them special,” Wilner told the Times.
It’s a logical progression in the march toward seeing iPhone photography as a legitimate form of art, or at least not a habit that invites derision. Apple's "Shot on an iPhone 6" campaign was so successful it's been rebooted for the iPhone 6s and Plus; real users' photos, shot on their phones, will appear on billboards in 85 cities around the world, according to TIME. But the shift toward phone photography isn't just coming from within Apple; even professional shutterbugs are trading their bulky bags of gear for their phones, including National Geographic's Mark Leong, who shot an entire editorial spread across China using an iPhone 6.
Even the selfie, long considered the basest form of phone photography, is gaining in prestige. The Atlantic defended the selfie as an art form, calling it “a deliberate, aesthetic expression—it's a self-portrait, which is an artistic genre with an extremely long pedigree. There can be bad self-portraits and good self-portraits, but the self-portrait isn't bad or good in itself. Like any art, it depends on what you do with it.”
I decided to give eWilner a test-drive to see whether it could turn iPhone-quality pics into museum-quality art. Here, we have Franz Marc's famous 1911 expressionist painting, Dog Lying In the Snow.
WikimediaCommons // Public Domain
And, in contrast, an eWilner-framed photograph of my dog, Maizy Schwartz:
Dana Schwartz // eWilner
Although it's obvious that a Cézanne still-life qualifies as art ...
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
... the exact same can be said of this French toast benedict in a vintage frame.
Dana Schwartz // eWilner
to give your brunch and pet pics the MoMA treatment they deserve—even if it's only in the virtual realm.