Paintings by Vincent van Gogh and other Dutch Masters come alive, and experiential art museums remain pervasive while XR, VR, AR and the crypto-verse gain more momentum in the art world. Here are some immersive art trends you need to know.
TEXT: Reena Devi
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
In The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing writes, “We are not used to reading stories without human heroes…We forget that collaborative survival requires cross-species coordinations. To enlarge what is possible we need other kinds of stories, including adventures of landscapes.”
Perhaps that is why as we experience the various existential crises of our time, we increasingly seek out artistic experiences that immerse us in expansive and diverse realities and landscapes, sometimes complementing our current physicality and other times, completely taking us away from it. It is this instinctive seeking of new worlds that makes immersive art and its relevant trends worth paying attention to now and in the years ahead.
Masters Paintings Come Alive (So to Speak)
Last year’s Netflix show Emily in Paris brought a whole new level of attention to the immersive experience of large-scale projected images of iconic paintings when it featured the van Gogh-themed light show from the Atelier des Lumières as a backdrop for a romantic scene.
Presently, at least three companies are bringing similar experiences of paintings by Dutch Masters to a total of 13 cities in the US. In New York City alone, one can choose between two van Gogh shows in June this year, both at top-secret locations: “Immersive Van Gogh”, connected to Massimiliano Siccardi, the Italian director behind the Atelier des Lumières experience, and “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience”, an entirely different light show produced by a company called Fever. Obviously, tickets for all these shows are going like hotcakes or already sold out.
The New Kind of (Experiential Art) Museum
Whatever your stance on the proliferation of such museums, the pandemic, social restrictions and low attendance do not seem to be slowing them down. The Museum of Ice Cream will be launching an outpost in Singapore in August, making their first foray outside of the US. Despite layoffs and discarded plans for a London outpost, Fotografiska, the museum which introduces photography exhibitions to visitors in a boozy clubhouse atmosphere with midnight DJ sets and a Michelin chef-run restaurant, announced plans for a fourth location in Berlin.
Pace Gallery outgrowth, Superblue, postponed its Miami launch to early Spring, featuring installations by artists such as Nick Cave, James Turrell, Es Devlin and teamLab. It is reportedly attracting strong investor interest and planning for two more venues in yet to be disclosed cities. Even those worst hit by the pandemic, like immersive art company Meow Wolf, are planning an ambitious comeback.
We Are in the XR Now
The increasing use of XR—an umbrella term describing augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies—since the pandemic is par for the course. One of the most successful applications of this technology so far is artist-run virtual experiment Epoch’s Substrata for “maximising its use of the virtual space, taking us out of the traditional art gallery format and incorporating artworks in different digital formats.” The architecture of the show, set in an ordinary snow-filled glade, was designed by Alice Könitz of the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LAMOA).
There’s also a slew of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) shows and initiatives launching this summer including “The Looking Glass”, an outdoor exhibition with new commissions by Precious Okoyomon, Julie Curtiss and KAWS at The Shed, New York, and “A Curious Game Of Croquet VR Experience” as part of the exhibition “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser”, at the Victoria & Albert, London.
Speaking of museums, in January, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, launched “The Met Unframed”, an AR phone experience bringing its art to your smartphone.
The Crypto of it All
Let’s not forget how virtual environments have come to be common parlance with those in the art world increasingly familiar with crypto. For example, Decentreland, a blockchain based VR platform, is even used by traditional art galleries such as Berlin’s König Galerie.
Also, as ridiculous as it sounds, there are NFT collectors creating virtual museums for their art-on-blockchain, hiring architects to design these spaces. Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile and venture investor Colborn Bell even established The Museum of Crypto Art (MoCA), reportedly the leading virtual reality art gallery of the Metaverse.
Meanwhile, James Murdoch-backed startup Authentic Artists developed virtual chimera or cyborg beings which perform live interactive music sets online. The company has plans to launch their virtual entertainers on Twitch and even metaverse platforms like Roblox and Fortnite as well.
Ultimately, it looks like immersive art is here to stay, whether it comes to us straight from the virtual worlds and personalities on our screens or intervenes with our surroundings and art IRL.