IIt’s a terrible time to go out. Since the emergence of Covid-19 and the resulting self-quarantine, thousands of museums, cultural institutions, festivals and global events have temporarily stopped operations and left empty streets and a restless public. In a sector that thrives on personal connection, the loss of a public is disastrous, yet resilient artists, institutions, galleries, even entire art fairs, moving to the digital arena, using streaming services and virtual reality, and showing live concerts on the Twitch gaming app, organizes Instagram dance parties and launches only spaces online.
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The past few weeks have seen live performances by Metropolitan Opera and Cleveland Inner City Ballet for an intimate St. Patrick’s Day show from Boston punk band Dropkick Murphys, with additional groups creating worlds specifically for VR. It is even possible to take a virtual walk through the New York Botanical Garden’s spring flower scape. The pandemic unbelievably begins a golden age of virtual media and makes its first promise of digital while offering new life and an unprecedented access to some of the world’s cultural touchstones, some previously economically or physically inaccessible. Although the world has never felt more physically isolated, digital media has offered a bridge, as well as an exciting range of experiences.
When the Google Arts & Culture initiative was first launched in 2011, it had modest ambitions. Today, thousands of users each month are practically exploring treasures from the Uffizi galleries to Guggenheim, leading to a boom in art-leaning VR projects. This has included the Metropolitan Museum of Arts award-winning video series, the Met 360 Project, which invites viewers to explore the Dendur Temple, among other attractions, with spherical 360 ° technology created by renowned manufacturer Nina Diamond. Recently, the digital team reported a 4106% growth in streaming viewership, with YouTube video views up 150%, and both social and website experienced significant engagement. The New York Public Library and 92nd Street Y have previously had modest success with their digital efforts, but since Covid-19 has gained new audiences with dynamic initiatives, moved discussions with famous cultural figures to YouTube and introduced free online tutoring for students. In Vienna, an ambitious campaign has put almost all of the city’s cultural treasures online, from Belvedere to the state opera, which currently offers choices from its archive of video shows as well as a VR / 360-degree experience, which recently received 130,000 new registrations on the opera’s streaming platform and apps.
The most discussed virtual project of the past month has been Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms, which proved so popular when it started to crash the site. Already scheduled before the outbreak, his debut was quickly traced in response to the Hong Kong Fair’s cancellation, explained Marc Spiegler, global head of Art Basel: “It became clear that this was something we needed to speed up and expand.” The virtual fair, which has 234 galleries and a total of 2,100 works, with benefits such as ZoomRoom, which allows galleries and artists to walk through viewing areas with potential collectors, seemed to be the most logical answer to the outstanding disruption.
David Zwirner Gallery, the first to launch online venues in 2017, has also seen an uptick in digital interest on both its showroom platform, David Zwirner Online and podcast Dialogues. “Exhibitions online can do things that brick-and-mortar exhibitions can’t,” explained Lucas Zwirner, Content Manager. “They can embed videos, longer excerpts of art-historically relevant material and artist-created content.” Like all media, he noted, the online space becomes as meaningful and as fruitful as we are thoughtful in the ways we approach it. “That has been the goal – to produce something that is effective in reaching collectors and the art world at large, but also appealing to artists because it is contextual, art-historical and elegant.” With a similar strategy is Pace Gallery, whose list includes leading technology-influenced artists such as Trevor Paglen and teamLab. The gallery began exploring online viewing room platforms last year as part of a major redesign of their site. “Our hope for these online exhibitions is to use the voices of our resellers and curatorial teams to create multimedia environments that really rely on an artist and the context in which they did their work,” said Marc Glimcher, CEO of Pace Gallery. “This is just the beginning of a new era of experiencing art through digital worlds.”
“Covid-19 has made the press much more urgent,” said Daniel Birnbaum of AcuteArt, who joins international artists, new media and technology to produce works in VR, augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR), explaining that many technologies i prototype has come across to help manage a widespread user’s demand. Birnbaum, the former director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, explained that a move towards digital was inevitable, with or without Covid, but has been surprised by the speed of the fantastic adaptation. Currently, his team has been working with Brian Donnelly, AKA Kaws, on a new type of AR that allows you to place yourself in immersive environments using an app that has already been downloaded by millions.
“It’s an extraordinary thing that in the midst of a total global crisis, when every museum and all public art institutions in the world shut down, and no one can travel, we launched a blockbuster,” he thought, explaining that in his past life it was it is much more difficult to reach target groups of this size and diversity. “In AR and AV, much of the work is driven by the democratization of opportunities,” he explained, “but it is now possible to reach beyond traditional structures and reach different target groups.”
“I have found that so many who have no interest in virtual reality are now keen to understand its capabilities,” said the CEO and founder of the Emblematic Group and “Godmother of Virtual Reality” Nonny de la Peña. De la Peña, who has worked with global journalism institutions, including the Guardian, to bring digital stories to life, demonstrated over Google Hangouts a new project she created for SXSW that allows users to place themselves in the worlds of their creation with Reach, a software program and a button-based system of De la Peña’s design. “The first initial wave of interest is organizations that are either trying to create virtual gatherings, as important milestones are suddenly removed, and our ability to celebrate together, to organizations urged to do this that desperately needs our help to help them get to that point , ”She explained. “I still think people are just beginning to scan the landscape.”
“Before Covid-19, digital space was almost always treated as an idea to expand an audience beyond the reach of physical spaces,” said digital strategist JiaJia Fei, former director of digital at the Jewish Museum in New York. She explained that cultural programming was usually designed, first and foremost, for one’s own audience or on-site experience, and later translated online through a video recording or series of images on the Web for documentation purposes. “Now that physical spaces are no longer a priority, the cultural sector is rushing to adapt events, exhibitions and experiences for a completely digital first audience.” She pointed out that achieving this requires an eye for equality: almost everyone has a mobile phone and computer at home, but very few have traditional VR headsets, pointing to an increase in 360 video, Google cardboard and conference tools that can easily be streamed at home. . “For digital innovators, this is our moment to push the boundary of our creative and technical vision and a chance to experiment openly,” Fei said. “For everyone else, it’s a crash course in digital marketing teams.”