In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has gone from a marginalized experiment in the gaming industry to a technology that could be used in education, space travel and, ultimately, to save the world. The seemingly endless VR possibilities includes the world of art too, with gallerists and artists exploring a melange between VR technology and their creative projects.
In the summer of 2017, VR came to two of the biggest contemporary art museums in the world. Partnering with leading VR platform, Vive, the UK’s Tate Modern invited visitors to don a headset and experience early 20th century Paris. Likewise, The Palais Tokyo museum of (21st century) Paris, France held its own VR experience concurrently, where artist Hayoun Kwon used VR to offer visitors an immersive look into the imaginative world of a mysterious woman nicknamed “the bird lady.”
Not only does the VR-art collaboration create a unique experience, it also allows galleries to overcome space limitations. In August 2017, the Essex Flowers gallery in New York showcased the work of 15 artists in a 400-square-foot space by having the exhibit, entitled “The Sands,” accessible entirely through VR headsets.
And VR isn’t just about enhancing the experience, it’s helping artists with the creative process too. Google’s Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space. “Your pallette,” Google says, “is your imagination.” The device is being used effectively by virtual painter Elizabeth Edwards, who’s carved out a career in VR art. “It’s difficult to express how much more natural working in 3D is with a headset and motion controllers,” Edwards says. “The artwork isn’t constrained to two dimensions on a flat screen – things like depth become intuitive because virtual objects are seen in the same way as objects in the real world.”
This wave of art VR could be the dawn of a new artistic movement – and as such the limits of its influence would be beyond recognition – or it could be the high-point of the latest fad around VR.