Panel talks in “The Art of VR”

Art In Virtual Reailty

The dizzying wave of hype for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) has kept growing these years and those new technologies are no longer distance and unreachable to people. Thanks for more consumer-ready VR headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE, or as simple as Google Cardboard and the hottest mobile AR game Pokémon GO in summer 2016, most of us now are quite familiar with those new technologies, or at least have some personal experience among them. When it comes to VR, AR, we mostly will think of the applications for gaming, films, tools, and more commercial using. However, a group of people have also embraced the idea of these new, hot mediums — artists.

Artists use different mediums to express themselves, to deliver messages, also push the boundary. It was really exciting and hard to imagine what the future’s going to be like with those technologies. The reality has expanded, since the line of physical world and digital world have mixed and push further. I like to see how artists take the advantage of VR and AR, especially in VR which makes audience immerse in the creations. The feeling is totally different from viewing a painting or a sculpture, and anything’s having more possibilities in the virtual world.

“The Art of VR”, and “Bunker”

Throughout this summer, I started working on some simple VR development, and while working on the projects, I had opportunities on attending some VR conferences and events. What I learned most interesting and fascinating was the growing of art in VR. “The Art of VR”, and “Bunker” were two exhibitions I attended this summer and I was quite impressed and inspired by the works they showcased. “The Art of VR” was a two-day conference featured demonstrations, entertainment exhibits, and panel talks about art in VR technology. “Bunker” was an exhibition featured several digital art pieces curated by New York-based artist, also NYU ITP professor, Gabriel Barcia-Colombo. Both of the events were presented at Sotheby’s New York. After attending these events, there are several points I feel really interesting about the relationship of art and VR:

  • VR is a great medium for having more immersive experience.
  • VR could change the space and environment how art works are showcased.
  • It needs a new way to curate the VR art exhibitions.
  • New ways for art collectors acquire art pieces in VR.

First, when the viewers are in VR headsets, they are totally isolated. The experience transfer you from the exhibition to another place, and beside viewing what’s happening in front of you, the audio also plays a huge role in VR. I saw couple cinemas in VR in “The Art of VR” event, some are animations, some are documentation in 360 video, and it really felt different comparing to sitting in front of a flat screen. “Raising A Rukus” from VRC (Virtual Reality Company) is a pretty cool VR narrative animation I watched in “The Art of VR”.

People waiting in line to try “Raising A Rukus” in “The Art of VR”

Showcasing art pieces in VR could be another issue for museums, galleries, and curators. Somehow, having VR piece needs a bigger space. Take Christian Lemmerz’s “La Apparizione” in “Bunker” for example. “La Apparizione” is a VR sculpture, a three-minute, looping experience showing a huge virtual gold Jesus sculpture. You can walk around the sculpture and see the gold blood dropping down. In the exhibition, this piece had its own room, a whole room to showcase it and only one person could watch each time. It gave a good example as how a VR art piece should be showcased in public, and at the same time, VR art piece is challenging our thoughts for traditional art exhibitions. How to set up a friendly, comfortable VR art showcasing environment must be careful designed. How many headsets should it have is another question too, because most of the time, we can easily see a line waiting for experiencing VR. Also, unlike traditional art showcase, people can walk around with their will and see whatever they want, in VR art work, most of the people need help with putting on the devices, so it always needs people to be responsible for the VR headsets. All of those elements combining together leads to the challenge for the art curators — how to design and curate for those digital art pieces. I think there’s no standards for this right now, since it is too new and people are trying to come up different ways they think are suitable for those digital art works.

Christian Lemmerz’s “La Apparizione” in “Bunker”
People trying “La Apparizione”

Another thing I found is how virtual art challenges for art sellers and buyers. Not like traditional art piece is an object you could put in your house, VR art is a digital product that need to be seen within the headsets. So basically you’re buying an experience. In fact, Christian Lemmerz has actually released five “La Apparizione” pieces, each costing around $100,000. I looked for more infiormation and found out so far not a VR work was sold in Sotheby’s, but I really like what they’re trying to do. It’s clearly that the art world might not fully ready to embrace the latest digital art, but it is nice to see they’re establishing the new standards and pushing the trend. I feel it really interesting about how this VR art market’s going to be like, and how will it grow in the future. It’s definitely going to become something more than we can imagine.

Me trying Sarah Rothberg’s “Touching a Catus.” in “Bunker”

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Sotheby’s The Art of VR

Sotheby’s Bunker