Experiencing Art With Augmented Reality
Artists and galleries are embracing immersive technology to create an emotional connection to their audiences.
Art has been a relative latecomer to the digital revolution – at least where we’re referring to the traditional/classic end of the spectrum – people are used to associating the value of art to seeing it in person, hence the fact that museums and art galleries still rely on special exhibitions for a large share of their revenue. At the time of the app’s first launch ArtFinder Co-founder Chris Thorpe told the Guardian that “The emphasis on art history and institutes has taken away the visceral, emotional experience of art. That experience and excitement should make you what to know more and deepen your engagement with it.”
Artfinder built an IMDB-style searchable digital catalogue with hundreds of thousands of paintings, sculptures, and art-related media. The site also contains essays on artists, artworks and artistic movements, making it a useful (and free) reference resource for art discovery, while social open up new opportunities for enjoying art. It allows you to virtually collect and share your favourite artworks, and as users build up a profile that reflects their particular tastes, the system also generates further recommendations of artists and pieces that they might like.
Thorpe believes this element of recommendations when combined with geo-location, adds a crucial element of serendipity to art discovery and keeps that physical connection to the real world which is so crucial to connecting emotionally with a piece of artwork.
“It means that when you’re in Gateshead, the ArtFinder app can suggest that you go to the Baltic. But on a finer grain, because we know where the pictures are held, we can say the next time you’re at Moma, remember to see Starry Night by Van Gogh.”
For Artivive CEO Codin Popescu, however the experiential element will always be central to how people enjoy and relate to artworks. The key, he believes, is to use immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality to seamlessly add digital elements to those existing and well-loved experiences, making them richer and more accessible in the process.
They want to become the go-to solution for artists, galleries and creators and change the way art is created and consumed while building a community and movement around augmented reality art.
I met Popescu at the Pioneers conference in Vienna in May, where Artivive had won the “Best Austrian Startup” category in the event’s competition. He told me that although his company was only founded in 2017, it had already accrued over 60,000 downloads, with users spending a collective 1.3 million minutes engaging with art via the app. In the past year alone, over 2000 artists in 65 countries have used the platform, supporting over 100 exhibitions 1.5+ million scans nearly 5k original artworks.
“For an artist to create in augmented reality they previously had to build their own isolated solutions, which required technical skills and resources, but now those artists can take visitors on a journey in time and explain what lies behind, enhance the art with illustrations or show how the artworks were made. For museums, exhibitions, galleries and other art institutions it offers a new and innovative way for the audience to interact with the exhibits.”
They so far worked with many of the top museums in Vienna such as the Belvedere and MAK – The Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art as well as many international venues. For the Albertina Museum in Vienna they also created digital content for the exhibition “Film Stills” and integrated AR experiences to the permanent collection “Monet to Picasso”
One of the examples in which this has already changed the gallery-visitor’s experience is that instead of the enormous and outdated audio guides upon which galleries have traditionally relied – and which many still cling on to – visitors can now navigate multi-sensory personalized experiences on their own mobile devices.
The fact that in such a short time Artivive boosts a turnover of over €150,000 also shows the monetizing potential for the technology, as does the fact that main platforms are making deliberate moves to supporting the sector. At Google I/O this year one of the most popular demos I went to showcased how ARCore could be used to augment both 2D and 3D artworks.
Bridging the Physical and Digital
“Art is at the very top of the luxury pyramid,” says Sebastian Cwilich, co-founder of Artsy, an online platform started in 2012 for learning about and collecting art, which recently launched an AR feature that allows users to virtually “hang” works from their nearly one million artwork database onto their own walls. In helping buyers visualize the pieces in context they are overcoming one of the key challenges of buying art online—not being able to see the work in person.
Digital natives relate differently to the art market, since technology allows you to source your materials from a practically endless database unrestricted by geographical borders.
This year’s Hiscox Online Art Trade Report revealed that online art market broaden buyer’s interest in cross-collecting, and art buyers are generally turning channel neutral, with mobile commerce gaining traction.
Blockchain-powered platform called Maecenas matches art owners with investors, increasing transparency and reducing costs. Crucially, it democratizes the process by allowing smaller investors to buy a fractional share in pieces valued at $1 million or more.
Magnus, the app that bills itself as the “Shazam for art” adds to this transparency-led empowerment by letting users snap a picture of any artwork and instantly find out information such as title, artist name, price and exhibition history. Founded in April 2016 by German entrepreneur Magnus Resch and managed to attract investment from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, but it has also faced serious issues as many galleries accused it of essentially stealing their data under false pretenses. This protectionism and grey areas around image usage rights perhaps explains the somewhat slower progress of art-based tech in relation to other creative industries.
The bottom line is that whatever combination of technologies proves most disruptive to the entrenched practices of art production and marketing, the art business needs to find ways of engaging the next generation of buyers. And these are people who must be reached in their own turf – which is bound to be predominantly digital rather than analog.
This article was originally published on Forbes