The world of art and new technologies have not always been the best of friends, but VR art and AR technology is nonetheless continually invading the art world. Historically, many mediums have struggled to adopt technological advances. The advent of photography was met with harsh criticisms and long debates about its legitimacy as a fine art before it was considered a relevant medium all its own. Filmmakers struggled to make the switch from black-and-white to color photography before it became the standard. But as the creative world continues to intertwine with today’s digital universe, it is imperative that individual artists, gallery owners and curators and creative businesses stay ahead of the curve.
Amongst the newest of technological advances sits virtual reality. Initially a thing of science fiction and a novelty in the world of gaming, virtual reality has begun to appear in important art spaces. Art is inherently an emotionally interactive and personal experience; the overwhelmingly vulnerable nature that is virtual reality is only a natural fit.
In 2017, virtual reality began popping up across the art world. The Whitney Biennal in New York included a VR art work by artist Jordan Wolfson, known for dabbling in the worlds of film, sculpture, installation and performance. Renowned auction house Sotheby’s became the first to commission 360-degree VR art experiences of paintings; the auction powerhouse commissioned four works by Dalí, Magritte, Masson and Delvaux to be rendered in 3D as a new sales technique. The London Academy of Arts brought objects from its “Virtually Real” exhibition to life with the help of a 3D printer. It was Google’s collaboration at Art Basel Hong Kong that may have been the icing on the cake: A futuristic project titled “Virtual Frontiers” which commissioned five artists to create VR art works using the Tilt Brush by Google, a 3D drawing and painting app.
The novel new medium doesn’t seem to be a passing trend, either. Here are a few apps, artists and creative businesses that are already forging the new VR art frontier.
Artists Ahead of the VR Art Curve
Virtual and augmented reality has enormous potential not only to develop a new creative experience for the artist but to immerse the spectator completely into the piece. Back in 2016, Icelandic musician Bjork has been bringing legitimacy to the new medium. The artist was one of its earliest proponents, beginning with a virtual reality exhibition with the Somerset House titled Bjork Digital. The project was an immersive film in collaboration with the New York Museum of Modern Art which allowed audiences to view panoramic visuals coupled with a surround-sound system. Included in the project was Stonemilker VR, a full 360-degree VR art experience in which viewers were treated to a private concert with Bjork on a windy Icelandic beach.
Emerging artists, likewise, are beginning to build their portfolios around the medium. Sculpture artist Jon Rafman presented an arrested work using the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, to bring his sculpture of animals devouring other animals to life at the Berlin Biennale. Nicola Plant has a PhD in Media Art and Technology at the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science. With a background in coding and motion capture, the “movement artist” creates VR art experiences utilizing an Oculus Rift. Sentient Flux is an installation work that allows participants to interact with glowing particles using their body. Viewers not only interact with the installation but create live art for other spectators.
A handful of applications have emerged that allow artists versed in fine arts to transition from 2D to 3D works. Tilt Brush by Google is a virtual reality painting tool with a large selection of brushes that allow for a natural and intuitive approach to painting utilizing various brush effects. Artists are also able to physically walk around their art in real time and take in a 360-degree view of new pieces.
Creative Businesses and Collectors Using AR Technology
As the art of selling depends less on physical gallery spaces and more on the digital realm, curators and gallery owners will increasingly need to digitize their vaults so that collectors can see works remotely or imagine them in their new homes.
Cappasity got its footing as a platform that allowed retail businesses to easily digitize products and embed 3D images of the products into websites, mobile and AR/VR applications. As a result, consumers on e-commerce shops are provided with interactive 3D images that help them to make purchasing decisions.
In just a matter of minutes, retailers are able to record a short video of their product, import it into Cappasity software and obtain a 3D image in two minutes. The created images are uploaded onto the platform and from there can be easily embedded into websites, mobile or VR/AR apps.
The platform allows online buyers to zoom into the details of retail products while allowing retailers to identify which specific details caused a consumer to either buy or walk away. It’s an exciting new tool for retailers who are looking to enhance sales by identifying which design details are most appealing (or repellant) to their buyers. Current clients include luxury fashion brands like Jazmin Chebar and Claris Virot.
Currently, Cappasity is moving into the art market with virtual and augmented reality solutions for potential buyers. Gallery owners and individual artists can scan sculptures, paintings and other art objects so that potential consumers can view the work remotely and facilitate digital sales. The New York Academy of Art already collaborates with Cappasity to showcase sculptures in 3D.
“Everything is moving towards augmented and virtual reality. Our software allows people to browse a virtual art gallery. Users can access an entire collection from the comfort of their home,” says founder Marianna Weber.
Limited equipment and experience is necessary to use Cappasity, as any regular camera and computer can be used to record a video and transform a work into a 3D experience that can be compatible across devices.
Orangenius, a technology platform for artists and the parent company of Artrepreneur, is launching an augmented reality app that allows art buyers to transport works to their desired space and visualize how it will appear amongst the rest of their collection. This technology is expected to revolutionize the way consumers purchase art online, as it allows them the opportunity to try out how a work might be viewed in a space before they make their purchase. It’s also a useful tool for gallerists and curators who would like to envision how works will be viewed in an exhibition before they make their final selection.
“The Orangenius app is a revolutionary tool not just for buyers, but for artists as well,” says Grace Cho, CEO and founder of Orangenius. “Imagine being able to give a potential buyer an additional sense of security and peace of mind because they can physically see how a work will look on their wall or atop a piece of furniture. Like our platform, Art Seen was designed to empower artists with a tool that makes selling their work that much easier.”
Later in May, Orangenius will also officially launch ART360, which allows galleries, museums, and art-centric business owners to film their exhibitions using AR technology; they can then share this video with potential clients or admirers who will be able to virtually ‘walk’ through the space and view artworks as though they were standing in front of them. They can then click on a blue dot that directs them to the gallery’s Orangenius profile, where they can obtain important details about the work, and even purchase it.
Whether you are a purist or an embracer of future technologies, VR art is here to stay. The new medium will surely continue to evolve and alter the way that artists produce art and creative entrepreneurs sell it, that is until the next art technology emerges.
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