Get a Steal at the Art League's Patrons' Show

The Art League's Patrons' Show is fantastic, but the scramble to create and manage a long list of artwork that interests you (and keeping it up to date) requires a lot of effort. If you're a veteran of the show, you know what we're talking about.

Art Thief is divided into five sections, each with a specific purpose. You may not need all the functionality it has to offer, but we think you'll find most of it really useful.

Version 4

Art Thief can now automatically update your list during the drawing. With a stable connection to the Internet, Art Thief will get real-time updates from the Art League computers during the drawing. A manual mode is still available for those who want to record the drawing numbers themselves.

Version 3

Art Thief now has augmented reality features! If you have a newer iPhone (6s or above) or iPad (2017 or later) you can simulate the artwork in your home. You can also use your device in the gallery to view your ratings as if they were magically attached to the actual art. See the video below for a demonstration.

First Launch

When the app first launches, it will ask for permission to send you notifications. Please say yes. This permission lets us notify you when more art is added to the show. You can always change your mind by going to the "Notifications" section of the "Settings" app on your iPhone or iPad.

Update Art

The first thing you want to do with the app is download this year's artworks to your device. Make sure you're connected to the Internet and tap the "Update Artworks" button. It may take several minutes to download the art. Initially there will be a couple of dozen artworks. Two or three weeks before the show, the gallery will get set up with all the entries and you'll be able to download hundreds of pieces.

As the show approaches, additional artworks usually trickle in. Feel free to tap the "Update Artworks" button anytime. Doing so won't ever affect the art you have already downloaded; it will just add the new pieces.

Rate Art

It's time to rate the art. The central idea to Art Thief is that you're building a list of artworks that you like. Because you don't know when your name is going to be called, you want to order your list with your favorite pieces at the top. This way when your name is called, you can get your favorite piece from the artworks that haven't been taken by people who have already been called.

Tap on any artwork in the list and you'll go to a view with a larger image. Tap on the stars to rate that artwork. The more stars an artwork has, the higher on the list it will go. We tend to think of the ratings like this:

Of course you can attach whatever meaning you want to the stars. Just remember that the app orders your list starting with pieces with the most stars.

After you've rated an artwork, you can swipe your finger across the screen (right to left) to go to the next artwork in the list. Swiping left to right will take you backwards through the list. You can always tap "List of Art" to go back to the full list.

Pro Tip: Tap options in the upper right corner of the list screen to change how the list is sorted on this tab. "Sort by Rating" is the default, but sorting by ID number is useful when you're walking through the gallery.

Rating the art is a big job and can be loads of fun. We've found that we continually make changes, and that's completely fine. When you go back to the full list, you'll notice the artworks with five stars are listed at the top, then the four stars and so on. Of course, you probably want to fine-tune the order. One way you can do that is by tapping the "Edit" button in the upper left corner of the list view. When the list is in edit mode, you can drag items by the icon on the right side of a given row.

This method is convenient for making small adjustments to your list, but we have an even better way to make sure all your items are in the order you want them. It's the "Compare Art" tab, and it's next on our tour.

Compare Art

After you've rated all the artwork you're interested in, the "Compare Art" tab gives you a simple way to order all the artworks that have the same number of stars. The initial screen shows five buttons, one for each rating. The number in parentheses indicates how many artworks have that rating. Tap one of the buttons, and the fun begins.

Art Thief will show you two artworks that have the same rating. It's your job to tap on the one you prefer. After you tap on your preferred piece, Art Thief will display a different pair for you to compare. When you've sorted all the artwork with that rating, Art Thief will let you know and put a check mark next to the button.

Depending on how many pieces have the same rating, you may end up going through a lot of comparisons; rest assured that Art Thief is doing everything it can to help with the process. It has a smart algorithm to show you the minimum number of comparisons it can to accurately sort the list. If you quit the process halfway through, that's ok- Art Thief will use what information you have given it so far.

Can you go back and do the comparisons again? Of course you can! We've found that we often want to tweak our list over time as we let the works sink in. Plus, more artworks may get added to the show at the last minute.

Pro Tip: Want help from a friend? Tap the "Share" button in the upper right hand corner when you're comparing two pieces of art and you can share those images via email, Twitter or Facebook.

The Show

This is the tab you use during the event itself, at the Torpedo Factory. You use it to record which artworks have been selected by other patrons so that when your name is called you're ready to call out the number of the artwork you want. If you've been to the Patrons' Show in years past, we think you're going to really like this part of Art Thief.

The top of the screen shows your favorite artwork. When your name gets called you'll call out that number because that's your top choice from the list of all the available artwork.

Of course you may not be the first to get called so you need to record what other people have chosen in order to remove those artworks from your list. Doing that is easy. Tap on the text field that says "ID". A number pad will slide up from the bottom. Type in the number of the artwork and press the "Mark as Taken" button. Art Thief will show you what the piece looks like and remove it from your list. If you make a mistake, don't worry, just tap the button on top of the picture that says "123 is taken" and that artwork will be set back to being available.

Do you need to do anything special if your top pick gets taken by someone else? No, Art Thief will automatically remove it from the top of the screen and replace it with the next highest available artwork from your list.

Pro Tip: You don't need to be connected to the Internet at the show to use Art Thief.

If you want quick access to what's left in your list or what's already been taken, you can take a peek without leaving this screen. Simply slide your finger from one side of the screen to the middle. This feature was added in Version 2 of Art Thief. Below is a video demonstrating it.


People have been successfully using Art Thief at the Patrons' Show for years, but some people like to make a paper backup of their list. The easiest way to do that is to press the "Options" button at the top of the "Rate Art" tab. On the "Options" screen you'll find a button that allows you to email yourself a list of the art you've rated in the order you defined.

There's also a button in there that lets you type in the numbers associated with the art as a way of manually adjusting the list. This is useful if you want to import a list from your significant other or a list you've made another way.

Learning from Your List

When you download new artworks, Art Thief sends your list to a server. It's kept secret until after the show and your name isn't associated with that data. We hope to use that to learn about the show. If you've been to the show in the past you know that it can sometimes feel like what gets picked is random. If we get enough people using Art Thief we might get some insight into that. At the very least, the data will be useful to the Art League.

One thought is to make this anonymized data available to any data scientists that might take an interest in it. Perhaps they can uncover things we never thought to look for.