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Step Inside Art in VR

Step Inside Art with VR

Art is a subject area that is a natural fit for VR integration.

Art is a subject area that is a natural fit for VR integration. Not only can students harness creative art tools like Tilt Brush, Masterpiece VR or Quill but there are amazing opportunities for them to visit virtual galleries using platforms like the Kremer Collection (which I recently tested with the Vive Focus in the desert) or The VR Museum of Fine Art. Both of these types of experiences offer transformative learning opportunities in the art classroom as both afford students with the ability to do things that have never before been possible.

There is another strand to virtual art education though and it is perhaps the most unique of all, offering a true redefinition in how works of art are appreciated – from the inside out. This third area of VR Art allows art students and enthusiasts to step inside 3D versions of artwork that are living, breathing canvasses. Obviously there is a degree of creative freedom being taken with each artist’s work – since they didn’t create these new experiences themselves – but that doesn’t make them any less powerful. Elements of paintings can be inspected from new angles, palettes engulf you and the integration of additional multimedia elements like music, narration and animation elevate these applications further.

So let’s take a look at some examples of these types of experiences. Naturally 6DOF, room-scale experiences are more immersive when it comes to this artistic sub-genre but there are a couple of examples available to mobile VR users too.

Saryan VR

This app, available on iOS and Android, was inspired by the painting “Armenia” by Martiros Saryan, recognised as one of the masters of Armenian artwork. It’s a simple experience that places you in a fixed position to look around the vibrant 3D.
rendering of the painting and bask in its vivid colours.

Saryan screenshot

Art Plunge

This app is available on iOS and Android but also via the Oculus Store for the Gear VR and Go. It offers the chance to zoom into five famous works of art (Mona Lisa, Starry Night, The Birth of Venus, The Creation of Adam and Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window) and as you do, the canvas expands to paint in additional details around the central subject e.g. the room that Mona Lisa sits in. It’s another short experience but well-produced and a worthy download.

Tilt Brush

When it comes to the 6DOF experiences, you can actually start with Tilt Brush as some of its most talented users have recreated several artistic masterpieces including Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and Munch’s “The Scream. You can access many of these from the main gallery menu inside Tilt Brush and of course what makes them even better is that you could even then add your own creative touch to remix them a little!

Eyes of the Owl: Bosch VR

Available via Steam this is a different beast to the previously mentioned Bosch VR on mobile platforms. To be honest I almost didn’t include it as you don’t truly step inside the painting here as much as zoom in for a close look. The artwork does animate though and the framing is quite special in that you begin the experience stood with Hieronymus Bosch himself inside his studio, in front of his infamous epic “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Bosch then prompts you to inspect the painting using a magnifying glass and as you dive into some of the incredible detail on the canvas, he narrates to explain his intentions, the symbolism used and more. It’s a great experience for art students but for those unfamiliar with the piece, please do note that it is quite explicit in its nature!

Eyes of the Owl screenshot

Dreams of Dali

This multi-award winning offering was produced by The Dali Museum which definitely adds authenticity to proceedings. It allows you to step inside his 1935 painting “Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus’ and as you may expect, it’s quite the surreal experience. As you wander around and climb the towers, you come to realise that it’s an experience that is full of surprises and hidden details. It’s also an excellent example of the power of VR to allow art to be viewed from a new perspective.

Dreams of Dali logo

The Night Café

This virtual ode to Van Gogh is a free download for Vive/Rift that places you inside the striking, unique pallet of his work. You can navigate around the café to find 3D versions of his Sunflowers and several other masterpieces. As the piano player sets the tone, you even around a corner to find Vincent himself – the master inside his own creation. An essential download for any Art Department.

The Night Cafe keyart

I recently recorded a video for my newly refurbished YouTube channel which showcases The Night Café, Dreams of Dali and Eyes of The Owl. You can watch that below and please do subscribe to the channel for more great VR education content.

If you know any other examples of VR experiences where you can step inside artwork, do let me know. You can find me on Twitter via @steve_bambury.

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