A Virtual Transformation of Art Exhibitions

3D virtual reality has transformed the art world for the better. Art exhibitions are finding wider and wider audiences, and art lovers are finding more exhibitions to view than ever before. Not only that but art enthusiasts are also discovering a greater variety of art, as well as a greater variety of spaces in which to experience inspiring collections. 

Another game-changer is the fact that geography is no longer a constraint — thanks to digital technology in general and high-quality 3D virtual tours in particular.

Whether it’s painting, photography, mixed media, sculpture or immersive installations, virtual tours offer audiences experiences that go above and beyond a real-life tour. But bear in mind that 3D virtual tours are not a replacement for an actual tour — they’re more of an alternative experience, with special benefits and uses all of their own.

Benefits of 3D virtual tours for art exhibitions

Let’s look at some of the advantages of 3D virtual tours for art exhibitions in more detail.

1. Increased visibility of art exhibitions

Virtual tours make the idea of art without borders a reality; exhibitions can now go anywhere and everywhere in the world, without ever moving.

In countries like Australia, this really matters. Not only are we geographically isolated from the rest of the world, but our main cities — where most exhibitions are held — are distant from each other. Virtual tours make art exhibitions more visible to both international and local audiences alike.

Furthermore, in-person tours of art exhibitions have many restrictions. They may be unsuitable for groups or families with young children. 

Many galleries are also not at their best during peak hours, when crowds make it difficult for visitors to move freely through popular exhibitions. Imagine the Earth Stories exhibition shown here with an excess of people constantly blocking a clear view of the artworks.

Just as limiting is the fact that some exhibitions are difficult to access for disabled or elderly art lovers. Some shows are prohibitively expensive as well — for both organisers and audiences. Virtual tours can get around all of these problems.

2. Enhanced interactivity

One of the main uses of 3D virtual tours for art exhibitions is that of enabling greater interactivity.

Visitors can get up close and personal to objects that catch their eye, as can be seen in Lori Pensini’s – The Secret Garden at the Gallows Gallery in Mosman Park. They can also get a 360-degree view of the collection. 

In some 3D virtual exhibitions, participants get to understand the entire layout of an exhibition as they virtually glide around it. They’re less likely to get lost or miss things.

Interactivity isn’t just about smart visuals and clever mapping, though. There’s also the ability to enrich the experience through the addition of descriptive, informative text and media (both audio and visual) to points of particular interest.

For non-English speakers, there’s an added capability to provide language translation of written texts and audio scripts. 

Another advantage of a virtual tour is that viewers can move around the collection at their own pace, clicking the pause button when they want to slow down or fast-forwarding to something up ahead. They can also backtrack to take another look at something, which is often less easy to do in a brick-and-mortar gallery.

In a nutshell, the interactivity of 3D virtual tours allows visitors to personally curate their experience of an exhibition, giving them greater freedom over how they consume and encounter art.

3. The time capsule effect

The vast majority of art exhibitions are temporary. One of the many benefits of 3D virtual tours for art exhibitions is that they can be preserved permanently.

In the past, many exhibitions relied on photographs to provide evidence of their existence. This is no longer the case. 3D virtual technology is being used to document art shows so that there is a rich and compelling archive of the event.

This also offers greater opportunities to collectors, students and the general art lover. In the future, they’ll be able to step back in time and experience a virtual recreation of an exhibition that no longer exists in the so-called real world. The physical exhibition will remain temporary, while its virtual counterpart will live on.

4. The melting of clocks — 24/7 accessibility

In Salvador Dali’s well-known painting, The Persistence of Memory, melting clocks are a key feature. 3D virtual tours have a similar effect on time: they dissolve the constraints of opening hours, allowing the general public to get an art fix at whatever time of the day or night they need it.

This raises the profile of art galleries. Whereas once they had a reputation for keeping art under lock and key, they can now reach out to the general public and provide round-the-clock art services.

5. Stretching the boundaries of art exhibitions

Arguably, real-life exhibitions have already reached the limits of their full potential. In contrast, 3D virtual tours are just beginning to experiment with the possibilities of this innovative mode of displaying art.

The most famous galleries and museums around the world are leading the way, providing art lovers with increasingly sophisticated and stimulating armchair experiences.

Smaller, less well-known galleries are following suit, with the kind of nimbleness and specialisation that today’s audiences expect from niche players. A good example of this is the Dominik Mersch Gallery in Sydney.

6. Complementing the real-life experience

In spite of the virtues of a 3D virtual tour, many art lovers argue that it’s not a substitute for the real thing. Online images have a certain flatness and absence of depth. Some artworks make a big impact when seen in person, while others dazzle with their intricacy and detail. Conversely, some artworks look better onscreen than in real life. In short, it can be difficult to capture the true essence of a piece of art through a virtual platform.

Modern audiences, however, don’t expect technology to replace real-life experiences. They consume media in ways that overlap with the real world. They use virtual tours as a way to revisit a memorable or complex exhibition. They also use virtual tours before going to an exhibition as a kind of appetiser.

In fact, online tours of exhibitions are a good way to tempt viewers into visiting a gallery in person. After all, who amongst us hasn’t booked tickets to see something that we first saw online? It’s human nature to want to know if reality will live up to expectations.

7. Protection for precious pieces of art

Another important benefit of virtual representations of exhibitions is that they help conserve unique, original and irreplaceable works of art. Real-life exhibitions, on the other hand, expose artworks to light, humidity, temperature fluctuations, dust and other damaging elements. Handling and cleaning of delicate pieces can also contribute to wear and tear.

In addition, items that might ordinarily be kept in storage or that simply won’t physically fit into an actual exhibition can easily be added to a 3D virtual tour as a kind of extra for virtual visitors.

8. Up-to-date content

One more clear benefit of virtual exhibitions is that their content can be easily updated. Information and visual images can be added or altered as needed. As a matter of fact, 3D virtual tours in their entirety are an update to the traditional art exhibition space.