How Digital Artwork is Being Incorporated into Virtual Reality

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Since the inception of digitized art tools, designers have been finding new ways to express themselves online. Their efforts simultaneously opened the market to a new form of internet artistry. Sales of digital assets like NFTs have reached billions of dollars while the demand for amazing digital artwork and artists has boomed. With the growing popularity of digital artistry, art galleries and museums have opened their doors to virtual reality (VR) displays. 

VR gives museum curators and gallery organizers the opportunity to offer visitors a unique visiting experience. From viewing lost paintings to having amazing digital artwork come to life, the digital possibilities are endless. By implementing virtual spaces into their exhibitions, organizations have engaged their modern, internet-savvy audiences. 

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VR In the Gallery

Some organizers have added virtual-reality art galleries within the halls of their own halls. Such virtual exhibitions allow visitors to enter a uniquely immersive piece of amazing digital artwork.

While such an investment may seem costly, VR has become a useful tool in garnering attention from the public. Virtual spaces allow audience members to experience realities never before possible. Take for example the Petersen Automotive Museum. 

The Petersen Automotive Museum

In 2017, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles developed a virtual space with Microsoft’s HoloLens team. With a VR tour, people learned the history of Ford’s GT40 sports car by watching it drive through the generations. Terry Karges, the executive director of the museum at the time, collaborated with Microsoft’s HoloLens VR team to create “interactive displays to enhance [the exhibit’s] storytelling capabilities.” 

The V&A

During the summer of 2021, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London also found success implementing virtual spaces in its halls. Through a partnership with HTC Vive Arts and Games Studio, the institution developed its virtual Curious Alice exhibition.

Organizers generated a world based on Alice in Wonderland. Visitors explored the origins, adaptations, and reinventions of the famous Lewis Carroll novel. The game could be played with multiple devices inside the museum or from home.

Audiences loved the experience saying, “charming, visually-appealing little experience sure to [be] enjoyed by fans of Lewis Carroll’s books.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Augmented reality (AR) has also been a key tool in offering audience members an enhanced view of the world. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is famous for its 1990 heist where two men stole $300 million worth of artwork.  The institution’s Hacking the Heist program implemented AR visuals over the now-empty frames. With a digital application, visitors could view the stolen art through the lens of their phones.

Project organizers expressed their joy in creating the digital renditions saying, “We hope projects like this inspire people to think of how art and technology intersect, how precious our world’s culture is, and how fortunate we are to have institutions that preserve, protect and make works available for the public to enjoy”.

Virtual reality and the use of virtual spaces prove to be a captivating experience for modern audiences. As such, institutions have realized the digital realm’s possibility to garner visitors to their doors. Some of the most successful exhibits have included virtual reality art galleries. However, what happens when galleries are forced to close their doors to the public? 

Rise of amazing digital artwork

VR From Home

With the pandemic restricting where people could visit, art institutions came up with new ways to reach their audience. Some organizations implemented virtual tours to bridge the gap, however, these practices still lacked realism behind a screen. 

Eventually, some museum curators and digital artists took advantage of VR technology to bring the galleries to the people. What was once a hindrance proved to be a great opportunity. In the virtual space, digital designers offered people a virtual reality art gallery experience from the comfort of their own homes. 

The Louvre

Many institutions took up the challenge of establishing a VR presence. However, the Louvre took a unique approach to creating something, unlike any other project. The VR experience Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass brought visitors into da Vinci’s masterpiece to show the process behind the painting.

Once immersed into the virtual space, guests are brought to multiple scenes to learn about the creation process. One scene includes Lisa Gherardini, posing for people to discover the woman behind the painting.

The Museum of Stolen Art

Even before the pandemic, designers were experimenting with the idea of VR art galleries. One of the most unique ideas came in 2014 from 3D digital designer Ziv Schneider entitled the Museum of Stolen Art.

Schneider created a virtual space showcasing some of the world’s most famous stolen artwork. In his words, it’s the art” that cannot be viewed physically anywhere in the world.” Operating on some of the first VR technology, Schneider helped discover the fantastic realities we are capable of experiencing today.

NFT Art Galleries

Digital creators today have also taken a more traditional approach to the newly founded virtual landscape. Some artists and collectors of NFTs post pieces of their amazing digital artwork into independent VR art galleries. 

Setting up a virtual reality art gallery is as easy as renting a digital space and posting the pieces. This ease has given artists and collectors access to a global audience. From there, they can connect with potential buyers from all over the world.

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The Future of Virtual Reality Art Galleries

While the pandemic led to multiple advancements in VR possibilities, many are wondering where the progress goes from here. Physical galleries are reopening, and some people have called VR tours a “fad” bound to die out. With these questions in mind, people must consider the benefits that come with working in a virtual space.

The Benefits of Virtual Reality Art Galleries

The previous examples only give a glimpse of how virtual spaces have been utilized to foster curiosity. Some of the  benefits of implementing a virtual reality art gallery include:

  • Boost in engagement from younger audiences
  • Increased reach to people from all over the world
  • Fantastic exhibits only possible in a virtual landscape
  • Newfound modes of interaction between the audience members and their environment.

Read more about the benefits and applications of 3D art in our recent blog post about digital art here.

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What the Critics Think about Digital Art and Virtual Galleries

Obviously, there are many reasons why continuing the practice of virtual art galleries seems positive in the long run. However, getting the opinions of experts in the industry may be the best predictor of where VR goes from here. In a recent article written by The Art Newspaper’s Extended Reality (XR) panel, curators and critics defined the virtual world as a “consensual group hallucination… where participants seamlessly interact with environments, data, and other life forms—untethered from physicality, locality and linear time.” 

Carole Chainon, artist and creator of the XR panel, took the conversation further, describing the Metaverse as a world that takes users “to another environment, immerses them, and provides agency. The sense of presence is achieved as it feels like a real-life experience visiting an unknown location.” She continues to say that the digital art gallery “becomes virtual art [itself] that users interact with.”

It is the untethered nature of virtual reality which gives artists the freedom to express themselves. Meanwhile, audiences appreciate their creations from a completely immersed perspective. With these possibilities realized, the XR panel rated the importance of virtual reality in the art world at a combined 3.5/5.

What This Means for Online Media and Brands

With the art world finding new ways to utilize VR technology, creative advancements captivate audiences in the exhibits and from home. Accordingly, many advertisers are searching for ways to garner similar attention, bringing their message to life with virtual spaces.

By utilizing high-quality renderings along with unbound creative freedom, people become captivated by entirely new interactive experiences. Whether life imitates art or art imitates life, it is clear that the line between art and life has been blurred. In short, the revolution of virtual reality gives audiences an immersive, emotional experience. 

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