“The best use of digital is to not make you aware of the technology, but to make you aware of the art.” – Jane Alexander, chief information officer, Cleveland Museum
Art has been heavily ingrained in various cultures since the beginning of time. Humans have used different art forms to tell stories, express their thoughts and feelings and passed down historical and familial information to future generations. The art world has evolved greatly, since its early, primitive forms of cave drawings to the Renaissance Age and later, Modernism.
While the techniques and paintings themselves have changed, the way we view and showcase art hasn’t drastically progressed –until now. Art enthusiasts around the globe are starting to adopt virtual and augmented reality technology to reach wider audiences and as a tool to engage art lovers in a new and exciting way.
The art industry is worth a whopping $63.7 billion and its stakeholders are constantly thinking of creative ways to grow and advance it. Many experts within the art world feel that virtual and augmented reality are the next big thing in continuing to engage audiences and further grow this ever-developing industry. This blog will highlight several venues and artists who have embraced this technology into the way they’re approaching their exhibits, foreshadowing a new way to interact with art.
Examples of Virtual and Augmented Reality in Art
Jacob Koo of VRt Ventures partnered with the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) last year to bring the highly acclaimed Kerry James Marshall’s Mastry exhibition to life.
They created a VR experience using Samsung Gear headsets, enabling audiences to be transported into the exhibit. Users could walk through galleries at their own control and view every painting from any desired angle, at their own pace. The technology captured the lighting on the paintings and placement of those paintings, which are crucial elements of the artist’s vision. A feature showcased within the engaging experience was the inclusion of narrations of the artist’s inspiration of each piece and the backstory that surrounds it. Users could also download the experience to their PC or Mac to view without a headset.
The project was highly successful and garnered attention, enticing Koo to partner with another artist, Shepard Fairey, to bring his DAMAGED exhibition to the masses.
VRt created a VR and AR mobile app that allowed users to walk through the space from any location. The app also featured 100 minutes of narration from the artist himself. The experience is also available on VR headsets.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art experimented with AR in their museum by handing out iPhones to museum goers with AR technology to view surrealist painter Rene Magritte’s work. For those not familiar with this artist’s work, Magritte is famous for his paintings of rocks in clouds and of men sporting bowler hats.
The AR technology featured an interactive gallery that was filled with digital puzzles inspired by Magritte’s famous works of art. Guests were intrigued with the ability to, in a way, get inside the mind of the artist’s peculiar world by creating apples, bowler hats and pipes for other guests to find as they went through the museum. The museum is using this as a test run to explore more ways to make art relevant and modern. SFMOMA has stated they are looking to implement this technology in other ways, in the future.
Recently, the Moco Museum based in Amsterdam, Netherlands announced a new AR app they are releasing called ‘Moco Play.’ The free app, which is available for iOS and Android, has interactive digital content that overlays over a selection of the museum’s featured modern artworks. Visitors simply point their mobile devices at the artworks and it comes to life on their screen. Artist works that are featured on this app are Icy & Sot, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama and Keith Haring, a modern artist known to push the envelope in the art world. This app launch comes after the museum recently celebrated its millionth visitor and presents a leap forward into innovation within the museum.
NeuroDigital, a company specializing on haptic sense in VR has collaborated with Leontinka Foundation and the National Gallery of Prague on an exhibition called Touching Masterpieces. This exhibition aims to enable blind and visually impaired visitors “see” the objects on display despite not being able to actually view them with their own eyes. For this, three world famous sculptures – The Head of Nefertiti, Venus de Milo and David by Michelangelo – have been recreated in the virtual world to allow those who wish to “see” the famous sculptures. With haptic gloves, they are able to “touch” the sculptures without damaging the real ones. The gloves have the ability to replicate how different materials can be touched, which makes users feel as though they are touching the real deal. Touching Masterpieces is “the first VR experience for the blind and visually impaired – not with a headset, but with a pair of gloves.”
A true masterpiece, at that.
Personal preferences aside, the value of art as an integral and omnipresent segment of society through the ages, cannot be denied. Art is celebrated across different cultures as a form of expression and a way to interpret and understand the past. By integrating modern technology with art, we are allowing a younger generation to get excited by and discover historically celebrated works that have been seen around over hundreds, if not thousands of years.
While reporting on attendance ratings in museums, Kelly Song, a correspondent from CNBC stated that “Museums are looking at the best attendance they’ve ever had, thanks to the way technology is revolutionizing the consumption of art. It’s allowing visitors to experience art in a new way, while bringing exhibits to others that may have never even set foot in the institution at all.”
This growing technology also has the potential to reach audiences that perhaps cannot travel to museums and educate them on the presented art pieces. The possibilities are endless and exhilarating. We’ll be sure to continue following this exciting new trend.