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Rough guide to virtual exhibition display

After staring at the exhibitions on the screen. Images from "Andy Warhol" at Tate, Munch's "The experimental Self", "I See You" at the Victoria Miro Gallery, "We Are Here" at the Heong Gallery, and "Gerhard Richter: Painting After All" at the Met Musuem.

Mid march marks the time when all the galleries had to close their doors in response to the virus. Subsequently, it has forced the galleries to look for quick solutions to present their thoroughly curated exhibitions online. It seems that there shouldn’t be a great deal to bring exhibitions on screen - we live in the world mainly driven by technologies. Also, galleries hold massive collections, and a lot of them are already digitally accessible for everyone to enjoy. However, the idea of taking a virtual tour of the curated exhibition is not as attractive as actually stepping into a gallery. Why? Could an online exhibition tell the same story as the one on site?

Michael Prodger in his article ‘Virtual Exhibitions. Being a desktop art critic” (RA magazine, 2020 summer, No 147) argues that looking at a painting is a determinedly analogue experience, and pictures on the screen just aren’t as interesting. Instead of focusing on arts, he has turned into a critic of art websites, looking for the clearest and most imaginative of them. He doesn’t provide a list of the good online galleries, in turn, his attention is captivated by Google’s Art & Culture website, which hosts individual works in high resolution. Could our habits on looking at art change from building a story of pictures in assemble to appreciating works individually?

To overcome the misery of the missed exhibitions, I have started travelling online not only to explore the art (to be honest, I have been doing it for a while) but to find out the methods that the galleries adopted to communicate their exhibitions.

1. Read. Interviews with the artists, descriptions and installation photos

It seems to me that this method is most often used by the commercial galleries. In addition to their onsite exhibitions, the Cristea Roberts gallery has usually offered to enter their viewing room. In the lockdown, the viewing room has become more representational of the artists, their working methods and studios than the assembles of the images.

Cristea Roberts Gallery. Check Christiane Baumgartner (digital photography and videos as the material to become woodcuts) and Micheal Craig-Martin (outlines and icons, flatness and vibrant colours).

White Cube has opened its viewing rooms recently, and is using the platform to showcase the works created during the lockdown. See the latest Tracy Emin (“a transference of emotions and place”)

We Are Here: Women Art in Cambridge at the Heong Gallery. I am biased to put this exhibition on the list, but I feel that the additional means that the gallery’s closure forced to obtain have proceeded to make a greater impact in communicating the exhibition. An extensive focus on the creators behind each of the exhibits via well moderated interviews strengthen the idea of the exhibition.

2. Read. Interactive presentation, categorised display. Instead of scrolling the long list of works, the display is grouped together into categories to be explored in their own sequence. Is it more engaging?

Munch: The Experimental Self organised by the Munch Museum (photographs, selfies and their relationship to prints, reversal)

Van Gogh Museum (portraits and topics)

Engaging introduction for Gerhard Richter: Painting After All at the Met.

3. Listen.

Although organised a while ago, in 2011, I feel that the exhibition Glenn Ligon: America at the Whitney Museum of American Art deserves to be put on the list for the methods. To make artworks speak. American history, literature and society. Artist works with text.

Countryside, The Future at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, addresses urgent environmental, political and socioeconomic issues. Listen the audioguide for the curators’ talks on the exhibition. Download Bloomberg connect app to make it a bit more convenient.

4. Watch. Video of the installation and the curators talk. Van Eyck exhibition at the MSK museum, Ghent

Andy Warhol at Tate Modern.

  • Does the length of the video directly correspond to how much the exhibition engages you? Do you watch documentaries when they are on display supporting the exhibition?

5. Virtual tour. Go around the exhibition bu pushing the buttons.

In addition to the list of all the works and brief introductions of the artists, galleries are offering virtual tours on an extended reality platform (like Vortic, you can install the app). Again, commercial galleries are in the front to deliver the most engaging presentation. Is it the most pleasant and interesting? Does the visit become more accessible compared to the previous display methods?

I See You at the Victoria Miro gallery (Women artists painting men, what “male gaze” means)

Daniel Richter at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac (paintings, colours, abstract).

Johanna Unzueta: Tools for Life at the Modern Art Oxford (shared experience, abstract, craft, natural, the notion of labour)

BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery (annual competition for the best portrait - you can give your vote)

6. Immersive virtual display. Touchscreen.

Download the Google Arts & Culture app and follow the guidelines to get into the exhibition “The Art of Colour”. Go around the exhibition. Imagine yourself from the side.

I am lacking of words to describe the feeling of dropping the gallery on the carpet in my living room. Aren’t you curious what the future might bring us?

General questions:

  • What are your habits of experiencing the exhibitions? Could they be enhanced by the online displays? Can only displays replace the onsite exhibitions?

  • Do you have expectations before going to the exhibitions?

  • Which methods did appear the most effective and engaging? Were you surprised by what you saw? Or was it expected?

  • Do you read descriptions of the work when you are at the exhibitions?

Honourable mentions: Royal Academe of Arts, Sensing Spaces

More virtual reality exhibitions in one place: GalleriesNow

Virtual tours: EyeRevolution for Royal Academy of Arts

Collections to explore: Tate, MoMA, MetMuseum, Getty

Curate your own exhibition: Art UK and Rijksmuseum studio

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© chierkute