The animated GIF as art: Google puts six loopy images on display

Micaël Reynaud, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

It's easy to sneer at the idea of artists piggybacking on the GIF craze, but Google is taking the whole thing pretty seriously, especially now that Google+ supports the animated file format. The search giant is collaborating with the Saatchi Gallery in West London to host a number of looped moving images, displayed on giant TV screens, which it feels are worthy of public recognition. There's a hint of competitiveness, as a panel of judges (including His Artiness, Baz Luhrmann) will select a single winning GIF tonight. In the meantime, we've embedded the finalists from six different image categories after the break, ranked according to how much we like them and whether any of the artists are mates of ours.

1. Category: "Urban"

Christina Rinaldi, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

This GIF was crafted by the artist (and extreme nail painter) Christina Rinaldi, who -- through sheer coincidence -- helped us to redesign the Engadget site a few years back. It shows a window cleaner doing his thing in New York, and was created from a bunch of still images that were taken on an iPhone 5 and then edited as a stack inside Photoshop. Christina makes around three of these little videos each day, and for her it's all about escaping the restrictions of regular storytelling:

"The GIF actually starts from the bottom, with the window cleaner starting to move from the bottom of his sweep. For me, that's a subtle thing, but it's the biggest difference between this and film. With film you expect a beginning and an end and some kind of climax, but with this it's just a cycle and everything depends on where you catch it."

2. Category: "Lifestyle"

Kostas Agiannitis, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

Next up, we like this one by Kostas Agiannitis because it's colourful and it reminds us of the Cinemagraph app on Nokia Windows Phones -- an app that lets you move some parts of a picture while keeping others dead still.

3. Category: "People"

Emma Critchley, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

This entry, by UK artist Emma Critchley, employs the same sort of technique as the one above, with only the guy's feet and the rays of light moving as he stands underwater. He's held down by the weights in his hand and somehow he's managed to avoid that thing where you jump in the water and get a huge air bubble in your shorts.

4. Category: "Night"

Matthew Clarke, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

An all-too-familiar sight as the sun falls on the streets of London. Captured by Matthew Clarke.

5. Category: "Action"

Micaël Reynaud, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

It's a pigeon. But at least it's a relatively clean pigeon that isn't crapping all over the place. Photographed and turned into a GIF by French artist Micaël Reynaud.

6. Category: "Landscape"

Stefanie Schneider, Image courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

This one's made by professional artist Stephanie Schneider and entitled "Instantdreamsnet." It apparently beat 4,000 other entries to make it this far, so we'll hush our beaks and let you decide whether it's any good. Either way, that's the six, and may the best GIF win. If you're in the UK and keen to mingle with like-minded folks at the Saatchi Gallery, the exhibition opens its doors to the public tomorrow, April 16th.

[All the above images are courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London]