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NFTs, AR and AI: The tech behind the digital democratisation of art

Rosh Singh, Managing Director of UNIT9 highlights the emerging tech and digital platforms that are poised to revolutionise the art sector for the better.

Rosh Singh, UNIT9

Managing Director

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The art world has historically been a bastion of exclusivity and elitism. At a time when people across the world are cut off from art, and the sector is struggling due to the effects of the pandemic, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity in this space has never been more vital. With £408m of extra government funding set aside to support British culture through the coming months, it’s clear this is a matter of national importance. Thankfully, digital innovation is now driving a significant shift towards the democratisation of art. Emerging tech and new digital platforms are poised to revolutionise the sector for the better, pioneering a new genre of immersive art experiences for all to enjoy.

Virtual visitors

When the doors of museums have been forced shut worldwide, digital tours allow users to reconnect with art and culture remotely. With no geographic limitations, visitors from all over the globe can be welcomed inside, widening art’s reach.

The Vatican and the Louvre are two big names that led the way in this space and while the 360° images of the intricate Sistine Chapel ceilings are beautiful to look at on screen, it’s the Parisienne museum that explores the immersive capabilities of virtual tours to greater effect, with whole exhibitions available to explore digitally, and for free.

The Met’s recent online activation takes this concept one step further, introducing gamification for an added layer of immersive education. Users are able to roam the museum’s digital galleries, answering art history trivia and playing games to learn more about the paintings on display. Instead of recreating a sub-par version of an in-person visit, the activation provided visitors with something they’d never be able to see in real life, integrating infrared scans to reveal hidden details and animating artwork in front of their eyes. With virtual footfall overshadowing pre-pandemic visits, The Met Unframed is proof that immersive online experiences can make art accessible to a whole new global audience.

By blending these digital elements with physical attractions once the world reopens, we can welcome an exciting new era of inclusive art experiences that are sure to flourish post-lockdown.

Rosh Singh

AR-t

Augmented reality is also helping to get art in front of bigger crowds. Olafur Eliasson’s AR work has now officially been seen by more people than the Venice Biennale, which is pretty incredible. With flexibility in location, size, scale, colour and angles, AR offers viewers an interactive way to experience art like never before.

Launched last year, Unreal City is London’s biggest ever public festival of AR art. Originally experienced as a walking tour along the Thames, users can now view and interact with the artwork from the safety of their own homes. Artist Kaws has taken a similar approach with his augmented exhibition, ‘Companion (Expanded)’, which covered 11 cities across the world and hit headlines for having a lucrative commercial angle. The sculptor sold off AR works for thousands of dollars as NFTs, digital files stored securely on the blockchain. This, along with Grimes’ $6 million NFT sale of her ‘WarNymph’ collection, not only proves that the demand for digital art is there, but also that there’s now a more secure and transparent way to transact thanks to technological advancements.

AR doesn’t just allow users to view art, it can also serve a more practical purpose. Auction house Christie’s use their app to allow art-lovers to ‘try before they buy’, hanging virtual copies of auction lots on their walls at home to see which looks best, the Picasso or the Monet. The Mauritshuis museum in the Netherlands recently launched an educational digital activation, Rembrandt Reality, allowing viewers to step inside one of the artist’s paintings via an AR portal. Art explorers could get up close with the characters and discover their story, moving around to uncover details of the painting’s grisly dissection scene in an authentic environment.

Smartphone art

Users are now able to access art at their fingertips thanks to social media, apps and other platforms that are helping to spread knowledge and fuel creativity.

With 44% of younger millennials and 34% of older Millennials heading to Instagram or Pinterest to discover new art, according to Invaluable, it’s clear that social has a hugely important role to play in opening up creativity to the masses; the power of shareable content on these platforms shouldn’t be underestimated. Snapchat’s Local Lenses inspire artistic collaboration by allowing users to leave their mark on neighbourhood landmarks in AR, working together to create a shared visual for all users to enjoy. It’s only a matter of time before creative institutions and brands get on board with this and open source all manner of digital art showcases within their community.

A host of new apps are also making art more relatable for users. AIGahaku transforms selfies into pieces of art, using style transfer AI to mimic painting techniques from a range of eras. Art-pricing app Magnus also uses AI, but this time to share information in a mission to make art more transparent. Dubbed the ‘Shazam of the art world’, the app allows users to take a photo of art at a gallery or auction to access key details including current and historic value, dimensions, and materials used.

Art should be for everyone. This wave of digital innovation has succeeded in making it more accessible than ever before. By blending these digital elements with physical attractions once the world reopens, we can welcome an exciting new era of inclusive art experiences that are sure to flourish post-lockdown.

Guest Author

Rosh Singh, UNIT9

Managing Director,

About

Rosh is Managing Director at UNIT9 a global Innovation Studio. A seasoned leader and passionate about the creative application of technologies for brands, Rosh has been involved in the agency, production and start-up worlds running successful businesses and executing innovative and award-winning work for some of the world's biggest brands. With a career history starting in Sales and Digital Marketing previous to UNIT9 he ran a record label, sold a business to WPP, where he founded an in-house OOH creative agency, leading the acquisition of a specialist technology company and founded a start-up incubator launching a new visual holographic medium, eco-friendly street furniture and a VR motion platform to the UK. Rosh has a moustache and secretly loves Rom-Coms.

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