2020 has been a hard and testing time, with everyone trying to figure out how to function in this new normal. The art world is no exception. We’ve accepted the museum-going experience as the de facto method of viewing art, but with lockdown in force, how are we supposed to enjoy the art that we love so much? Do we just give up on ever enjoying art?
Enter virtual galleries. With the advancement in virtual reality technology, it is now possible to experience the world without actually leaving your home. You can see the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon and you don’t even have to put on your shoes. You can even do it right this very moment on your phone via Google Street View.
Art galleries across the world have taken advantage of this technology and have set up exhibitions virtually for their patrons to enjoy. It’s a feature that was already available for many art institutions but became more important than ever now for the survival of art in the age of social distancing. Virtually every major art institution, like Musée d’Orsay in Paris and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, have their own versions of a virtual gallery. Some artists and galleries have even set up their own, smaller virtual exhibitions or digital tours.
There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to this space. The most obvious advantage is it lets us enjoy art while still practicing social distancing. Other advantages include being able to reach more eyes (not restricted to viewers from around your area), not having to lease a physical space, and relatively easy set up if you know what you’re doing.
The main disadvantage is that some artworks really need to be experienced in real life to get the sense of their scale. Although the more advanced galleries are modeled to show the artworks to scale with immense digital resolution, unless you invest in some pricey VR headgear, artworks are limited to the size of your screen. It goes without saying that the physical experience of art exhibitions can’t and won’t ever be replaced.
Even with its disadvantages, there’s no denying the usefulness of a virtual gallery in today’s world. It’s a useful tool to enjoy art and take a break from the news cycle. When following your favorite artists, it can be an exciting way to be the first to view some new exciting work. It’s accessible to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities. The virtual gallery is here to stay.