This Virtual Exhibit May Change the Future of Art
Pay a visit to High Line Nine's Gallery 9 off West 28th Street, and you may think they are in between exhibitions. No paintings hang from the walls, and no sculptures are on display. It looks – quite simply – like an empty room.
While that emptiness may be true in the real world, however, with the right – shall we say, equipment– you can see that the room is in fact quite full. It's just filled with virtual art, or art that does exist in the real world (somewhere), but here, is only visible through an app. The app in question is called Aery, and it promises to extend "exhibition space beyond the physical limitations of galleries and museums by displaying fine art in digital form."
Confused? Perhaps the best way to think of it is the Pokémon GO of art; simply focus your phone or iPad camera on a space in the app, and art objects appear, creating a virtual gallery that is visible only on your phone screen.
This technology opens up a wealth of possibilities for the art world. For one thing, it allows galleries and museums to showcase more art than would be physically possible if they were displaying real pieces. High Line Nine, for instance, is now displaying two shows in Gallery 9 through Aery at once in an exhibit called "Art Has No Limits": a series of 3D photographic sculptures by Shuli Sadé and a celestial sky painting on the ceiling by Richard Humann. Far from making the room feel crowded, however, the exhibits live in separate spaces in the app, allowing you to easily select whichever one you'd like to see at a time.
According to Aery Co-founder, Jay Van Buren, there are other possibilities for the technology, too, including replacing the "art on approval" process in which galleries pay to ship and install a piece to a collector's home so they can live with it before they buy it (if they don't buy, of course, it gets shipped back – entirely at the gallery's expense). With Aery, Van Buren hopes to be able to replace that time-consuming and expensive process by allowing collectors to virtually install artwork in their homes.
He also envisions museums using the technology to extend their expertise into the real world; Membit, the parent technology of Aery that Van Buren is also a co-founder of, currently has photos of Grand Central Station in the 1940s that become visible when you are there, allowing you to go back in time in a sense to see what the building once looked like.
"You can imagine a museum taking that technology and being able to take their curatorial vision and their knowledge and extending it out into the world," he says. In other words, turning the world into a museum.
But perhaps the most radical idea he has is that there will one day be a virtual art marketplace, in which collectors will collect digital artwork, whose provenance will be verifiable through blockchain. "I totally believe that 20 years from now, if somebody says they’re a collector, the next question is going to be, 'are you a digital collector or a physical collector?'" he says, "We’re not there yet, but that’s where we’re headed."
Certainly, the technology is fun to use, and at a recent opening of the exhibit for Related residents, guests delighted in navigating around the bulbous Sadé orbs, even going out of their way to avoid running into the virtual pieces.
And it doesn't just need to live in a gallery, either; High Line Nine is hosting two guided tours on September 28 and October 5 around West Chelsea, where the Sadé and Humann pieces will be visible from the High Line, the streets of West Chelsea and Hudson Yards*. Aery will also be hosting exhibits at Kasmin Gallery, Margaret Thatcher Projects and UNIX Gallery in the coming weeks.
"The spheres are escaping from the gallery," Van Buren says.
Better go catch 'em all.
*Free tours run every 30 minutes on Saturday, September 28 and Saturday, October 5 from 4-6 PM from High Line Nine's Gallery 9.
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