Virtual Reality (VR) is a groundbreaking new experience within the production, reception and mediation of art.
A Short Look Back
The term “Virtual Reality” first appeared in 1982 in the book “The Judas Mandela” by the science fiction writer Damien Broderick. Two years later, in his “Neuromancer” trilogy, American author William Gibson coined the term “cyberspace” by allowing humans to enter a simulated reality via neural interfaces. But real father of Virtual Reality as medium is the American computer scientist, life artist, futurologist and entrepreneur Jaron Lanier.
Behind the VR technology is years of development work. But the first 19 years of the 21st century are characterized by rapid advances in VR development.
Meanwhile we are living in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. VR is also a great medium for artists. The use of it as an alternative space where art can be created and experienced is part of a natural development.
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Another example is the production company Acute Art. Led by Daniel Birnbaum (former director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm), it offers contemporary artists access to cutting-edge technology that enables them to translate their creative visions into new digital media – including virtual, augmented and mixed realities. The company was founded in 2017 by the Swedish collector Gerard De Geer and his son Jacob De Geer. It has already developed a series of collaborations with artists such as Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor or Yu Hong. And I am pretty much looking forward to the upcoming 58th Venice Biennale, where the performance artist Marina Abramović will present her first VR work.
True, the digital implementation will never replace the physical encounter with an artwork. But one thing is clear: the habits of the current generation are extremely digitally controlled. Recent examples in the art market – such as the sensational online sale of a work by Albert Oehlen at Gagosian or the Instagram sales of the gallery Levy Gorvy – show that new technologies can play a significant role in the sale of art. But beside the commercial art market also museums and institutions are increasingly focusing on the audiovisual qualities and augmented realities to reach people across borders and regions. Production companies like Monochrome or Khora Virtual Reality already create virtual spaces for museums. And the time will come, that we can walk through museums whenever and wherever we want with our VR glasses.
The famous dslcollection has played a pioneering role in this area over the past decade. Since 2016, the collectors Sylvain and Dominique Levy share their sometimes larger-than-life artworks of Chinese contemporary art in an internet-based VR museum. Digital dissemination for them is an alternative to the real experience of art and helps to share art with a global audience.
In 2017, the famous Kremer collection from Cologne “opened” its first private Virtual Reality museum. Visitors can experience the works of Old Masters, such as Rembrandt and Frans Hals, gathered in two decades in a museum atmosphere.
And the VR Museum of Fine Art, which was developed as a video game, shows famous artworks that under normal circumstances could be visited across 10 countries. Thanks to virtual technologies, art lovers can now interact with these artworks in a completely new way.
Still, the VR technology is not quite mature. Anyone who has had to do with VR glasses knows that a kind of seasickness can happen. The sense of touch and smell for the full perception of art will also be difficult to digitally represent. But the daily development is progressing. There is no physical rules within the individual’s experience. You may experience artworks in a very personal and interactive way. Older and sick people, people with less mobility and flexibility may have the opportunity to visit exhibitions in New York, Shanghai or Paris and can get comprehensive information. The commercial market will soon conquer virtual space and offer works for sale. And private collections, as illustrated by the examples, have the opportunity to inventory their works in virtual form and present them in their personal museum with less effort and investment.
Another advantage: no museum overseer will tell you to stay away from artworks!
By Dr. Annette Doms, Co-Founder of UNPAINTED
First published on LinkedIn in September 2019