The Art World in Virtuals Worlds (WAC Weekly — Feb. 2nd 2022)

How physical collections are being displayed in virtual worlds, and what’s the place of Web3 in it?


NFTs have transformed the way we regard and share art pieces. Now, the metaverse is in the foray. Although it’s still experimental, we already have some players in the space. For example, in this article, Data Art presented two types of virtual worlds presented by key actors from the art world.

Sotheby’s metaverse is a platform for digital collectors and art experts to feature their NFTs. Sotheby has already worked with Pak, a digital artist and crypto designer, to build a metaverse, where bidders can buy Pak’s digital artwork interacting through avatars. Sotheby’s metaverse isn’t the only noticeable action we’ve seen connecting the metaverse and the art world.

DSL Collection gathers an exceptional collection of 200 contemporary Chinese artists. After developing multiple virtual spaces presenting the collection such as on SecondLife and in virtual reality, the DSL Collection is now exploring social virtual reality by being available on Sansar (link here) by also via the videogame “Forgetter”.

In the 7th session of our WAC Weekly program, we welcomed Karen Levy, co-founder of Aika and co-owner of the DSL Collection to explore the connection between the metaverse and the art world.

The Metaverse & Museums

There have been signs of the metaverse concept way before Mark Zuckerberg decided to double the excitement about this futuristic ordeal.

Simply, the metaverse is a “world” where people enter as avatars through augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.

Museums get to create a realistic environment that people get to explore. So, yes, I know this sounds much like we are already doing now. With that, we will dive into the pros and cons of a museum metaverse as we explore more and more about this metaverse.

Pro — Audiences Development

  • Connecting with the missing audience

Virtual worlds are very good ways to connect with the missing audiences. Of course, we are talking about the people who can’t access real collections.

And a metaverse is just the perfect way to capture these missing audiences as they have the opportunity to be in places they’ve deemed impossible.

  • Meeting new audiences

It provides an amazing opportunity to not only connect with missing audiences but to touch new ones. For instance, we had Fortnite hosting a concert that connected 30 million people in one digital space early last year.

The metaverse provides a similar platform for the art community. When museums connect with people who don’t have real art, it increases participants. We create a space where you can access an exhibit or meet with people. Everyone talks about the works even though you don’t own anything. That sounds like fun.

  • Meet people where they are at

Also, the metaverse will help museums meet people where they are towards audience development. For instance, let’s say you have somebody a bit older and really would like to have a much more realistic experience in the digital space. They could use digital twin technology to almost accurately represent the Gallery as it would look in a physical space

Con? — Physical spaces (Museums) vs. Digital spaces (Metaverse)

The art community must be careful not to replicate physical spaces. The least thing museums want is to pump thousands of dollars only to build a digital twin concept.

Why would you want to replicate something present in the real world? Why would you need a digital gallery and hanging paintings like any other galleries out there?

And that is one of the issues that museums will have to diligently work on to make their stride into the metaverse worthwhile. The goal is to make the museum’s metaverse more of a playground for experimentation, not a replication of the real world.

Pro — Second Language for New Generation & Artists

Metaverse offers the new generation to design their ideal world or create their imagination. And this can greatly benefit the art community.

For instance, look at what kids and teens are doing with Minecraft. Creating and building a world, an avenue to express themselves. Let’s say artists are allowed to really depict what they want people to see in their paintings or sculptures.

You see, through the metaverse, artists and their audience get to connect on a deeper level, through perfectly portrayed artworks. This makes art more meaningful. And this experience isn’t limited to artists.

In the metaverse, anyone can create. So, we have an environment where artists, designers, and their audiences connect better by creating their ideal imagination

Con? — Open Metaverses vs. Close Metaverses

Now, here is something to think about.

Should a museum metaverse be centralized or decentralized, and what are the effects of either?

Cointelegraph writes that Meta’s metaverse being centralized is a threat to decentration, a status the internet is working to achieve. Whichever museums choose to adapt might influence their credibility and also participation.

For instance, in Roblox and Second Life metaverses, you can also see your friends and have a conversation. But nothing you do there you can do in any other land. Also, you don’t own anything. So it’s like everything you put in there, you pretty much give away to Roadblocks.

So, there’s a real question about having an open metaverse based on blockchain and having the NFTs as the link. This allows museums to take advantage of both NFTs and metaverse.

On the other hand, a centralized metaverse is needed for a controlled environment. It helps museums properly regulate the environment, but it could be a risky move. However, there are benefits of these risks.

For instance, it will prevent blurring boundaries that could lead to the destruction of art pieces. I mean, in some metaverse environment, avatars can fly! Imagine allowing people to fly around a museum’s metaverse — definition of chaos.

Pro — A Platform to Improve Experiences

Museum experience will be more interesting if artworks presented in the metaverse are designed for 3D virtual experiences.

Since the metaverse allows A virtual world that allows for interaction with 3D avatars in a similar environment, arts are way more realistic.

This is important because when we speak about art, we also want to create this experience, this excitement, and events where everyone can connect

Con — Limited Power

The metaverse environment prompts people to stay in an environment built for them. So, for instance, you were on a flat Earth, and you bought a little square where you can build up. Sometimes there are limitations on what and how you build up.

While this might seem like a good way to regulate the metaverse environment for museums, it may also affect participation like a centralized metaverse would. People go into a metaverse to be free. Doing this opposes that.

Pro — Art and Technology Can Finally Collide

While NFTs really brought the art world and technology together, the metaverse takes it to a whole new level.

Talk about the experience of connecting with artists as digital avatars. Interacting with digital works and exploring digitized museums to top it off. Unlike NFTs, art audiences are integrated into this environment.

This provides a great opportunity for the art world to connect and drive creation together. And it also includes the process with the technology team and the artist. So, this is where we really see art and technology together.

The Bottom Line

The metaverse platforms are very new. For the art world, the whole idea is building experience and, of course, audience development. It provides an opportunity to really showcase art on a whole new level.

Metaverse also allows for a more profound interaction between artists and their audiences. And this is a massive opportunity that will transform museums.



WAC Lab - Web3 for the Arts and Culture

All insights published here come from weekly open discussion. It is collective intelligence at its best to think about a Web3 future for the arts and culture.