In an earlier post, Fine Art goes online: the (virtual) reality of COVID-19 and the changing face of the fine art market, we wrote about how the art market was trying to adapt to the ravages of COVID-19.
We noted how art galleries were rushing to virtual platforms, art viewing rooms and other means of attempting to replicate the in-person fine art experience that seemed to evaporate over night.
Whether or not these attempts in some way or another successfully mitigated the blow remains, perhaps, to be seen.
"...one area that appears to be making headway, at least from a technological perspective, and which we think represents the closest substitute for the irreplaceable in-person fine art experience, is the world of virtual reality...
But one area that appears to be making headway, at least from a technological perspective, and which we think represents the closest substitute for the irreplaceable in-person fine art experience, is the world of virtual reality. Or more precisely art virtual reality.
Lets back up a second. What do we mean by ‘virtual reality?
OxfordLanguages defines it as,
“...the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors...”.
So when art galleries or art fairs have resorted to 2D or 3D online art viewing rooms, even those rendered by companies like Matterport, the Fine Art experience rendered is not immersive virtual reality.
In these solutions, the art patron is left external to the experience. While 3D space renderings do give an added dimension, one may be left feeling disconnected to the art experience and interaction, much as one would be any time we have until now engaged in online collaboration.
This fine art experience may not augur exceptionally well for art sales or generating art enthusiasm.
The buzz word during COVID for online collaboration has without a doubt been Zoom. While until then some of us only knew ‘zoom’ to be that Fat Larry flash-in-the-pan 80’s hit, we all rushed to Zoom conference, do socially-distanced happy hours, or even the odd isolated Passover seder.
Art found some expression, as mentioned in our earlier post, with Zoom art gallery openings and artist introductions: even Zoom art auctions.
But all of this was a bit flat. Only so much attention grabbing time before we all disappeared for a few minutes to our cell phones or that other pressing matter on our laptops.
And no ability to actually immerse yourself in the art experience by spending time with the art and learnings its art story. No doubt crucial for any art sale conversions.
And, even more, these solutions left very little room to interact with the art seller, the gallery or artist, other than maybe a ‘contact-us-for-future info’ form in the online viewing room or, if you were a super lucky, a chat box.
"...To really appreciate the potential that VR has for fine art, you literally need to jump in..."
So enter Virtual Reality or ‘VR’.
First you need to get the hardware. And that ain't so easy. An Oculus Quest or Rift can set you back a few hundred dollars, if you can get them that is. Periodically out of stock, long shipping delays, poor customer service and the like add up to a challenging sales experience. We had to wait five months (COVID influenced to some degree, perhaps), and then convince the sales rep to not cancel our order when the common carrier for some odd reason failed to deliver.
Certainly worth the wait though. When it came and we put that headset on for the first time. Just plain wow. We now understand why Facebook and Zuck are so heavily invested. It is the future, and potentially the future of fine art promotion too.
Appreciated now for its gaming prowess, VR‘s application extends way beyond that. For fine art, nothing, certainly now, other than personally being there, quite provides the immersive fine art experience.
You are there. Literally. In the middle of a gallery or fair. You walk around, up to the art. There with other people or alone. Collaboration. Interaction. Yet the only hazard is walking into your furniture as you wonder around your living room immersed in another world.
Not being avid gamers, and wanting to find VR solutions in which we could demo The Fine Art Ledger's art blockchain platform in VR, we found two VR applications, the first a collaboration space called Spatial, and the second the dedicated fine art exhibition virtual reality platform Art Gate.
Donning our Oculus Quest headset, we accessed the Spatial and Art Gate VR apps (to which we were invited, the apps not yet published).
Entering the immersive Oculus VR landscape is breathtaking, feeling immersed in an alternative reality. And these apps did not disappoint either.
Spatial, essentially a collaboration space on steroids, allowed us to step into its world. First, we let the app design our avatar (a strikingly familiar, almost full-body, cartoonesque representation of The Fine Art Ledger's founder), and then we created a space to collaborate in.
The functionality in the space itself is impressive. Upload images, search, and display websites in a browser, add white boards, turn and rotate objects in the space and collaborate real-time as-if-you-were actually in the same room, with 360 degree perspective.
Its unlike other collaboration or space representation experience out there, and takes you right into that reality, without the voyeur-type, outsider Zoom feeling.
Virtually everything in the space is manipulable. Your hands become electronic extensions in VR; turning, moving, rearranging objects just as one would IRL. Presentations become interactive and engaging, objects spring to life, and the experience feels like you are actually there and involved.
Spatial further impressed with the speed at which its platform is evolving. The experience is being regularly upgraded and features added.
We experimented with it, and a video capture of our experience is included, below. The Facebook 2D video rendering does the experience little justice, but you can see how we were able to include a FAL Mobile Fine Art Experience™ in the virtual space, which any collaborator in the VR space could interact with to get the story behind the artist and the artwork, while appreciating a virtual reality rendering of the artwork right there.
For fine art, Spatial represents a remarkable opportunity to present artworks, and to almost-physically engage with patrons in an intimate setting. Intimate art exhibitions and gallery showings are easy to set up. Inviting patrons to join is easy too. But, while suited for intimate gatherings and timed art showings and collaboration, it does not seem well placed for ongoing art exhibitions or gallery spaces where you want your patrons to come in and out at their leisure.
On the other hand, Art Gate provides this functionality. A VR platform specifically geared to fine art, it offers 'virtual reality gallery space' much like taking a lease in IRL would be. Currently it offers monthly 'lease' deals for between $99 and $299, 'variabled' on the number of artworks, space, and the offering of a 'digital content manager'.
The VR experience is again, simply awesome. Walk from one gallery exhibition to another in your own time and leisure. Get close up with the each work of art, and collaborate with the gallery and other patrons at scheduled openings. Almost the real in-person thing, and far more captivating than 2D viewing rooms or real-estate type space renderings.
"...Being able to get a virtual tour of the story behind artwork and the artist is a further dimension that FAL can easily add to each virtual space..."
But what we found missing is the story behind the art.
A walk though the virtual reality space takes you to works with very little information about the work and the artist, the very information that FAL easily manages and delivers through its Mobile Fine Art Experiences. We wanted to engage with the works in the VR exhibition space, but could only get limited information: something which no doubt is important to art galleries and other art exhibitors looking to convert exhibitions into sales.
Being able to get a virtual tour of the story behind artwork and the artist is a further dimension that FAL can easily add to each virtual space. Even, more, through FAL's Mobile Fine Art Experiences, each art work, and its content can be easily managed through the FAL platform, directly connect virtual patrons with the artist and gallery staff, and easily allow direct, in VR purchase or bids on the artwork.
"...Art Gate is a pleasure to use and to experience, and is a true pioneer in the virtual reality space. But it, and Spatial show how important, and applicable to fine art virtual reality is, particularly while COVID19 social distancing is required..."
Art Gate is a pleasure to use and to experience, and is a true pioneer in the virtual reality space. But it, and Spatial show how important, and applicable to fine art virtual reality is, particularly while COVID19 social distancing is required.
But to fully develop the interactivity, we need to open a further dimension which reflects the full real-life transaction. If you are a buyer, you don't walk into a gallery or art fair, explore and then leave. You learn, interact, collaborate, communicate, and ultimately, close the deal.
"...This real-life process needs to be brought into virtual reality to lend the full art experience. The Fine Art Ledger not only can deliver this, but also backs the artwork up with Blockchain art authentication..."
This real-life process needs to be brought into virtual reality to lend the full art experience. The Fine Art Ledger not only can deliver this, but also backs the artwork up with Blockchain art authentication. Virtual reality needs underlying confirmation that the art exists, that it is what it purports to be, and is owned as represented. Without that, there is no tie to the physical world, and for the most part, our art remains physical and deliverable.
Art blockchain can achieve this, and provide the required link between the digital and the physical art. With FAL's real-time Blockchain authenticated certificates of authenticity, the provenance, title and description of the art is just a virtual reality touch away.
Virtual reality is simply a game changer, and potentially a game changer for art. With its current expensive barriers to entry (requiring expensive headsets is a barrier indeed), it may not catch on right away. But once you experience it, and its potential, there is really no going back.
And the Fine Art Ledger, with its art blockchain powered platform, is extremely well placed to take art virtual reality to the next dimension.