We recently completed a Virtual Tour for Dublin artist, Gerard Byrne and it had me thinking of the whole virtual Vs real gallery experience. Luckily, the gallery is back open (by appointment only during COVID times) but it did raise an interesting point. What are the benefits of Virtual experience when galleries are back open and you can visit for real? In this post, I challenged myself to list just a few reasons a Virtual Tour still has value for art galleries in a soon-to-be (hopefully) post-lock-down world.
Firstly, nothing beats seeing art in real-life in a gallery or museum setting. And even if you don’t just go for the art, many of us love the entire exhibition experience. Everything from the artwork to the architecture, the cake and coffee, the gift shop or the beautifully produced programmes are an experience that cannot be mirrored by a Virtual Tour.
But, when you can’t make it to an exhibition (thanks global pandemic!), can’t travel to a far-flung gallery or simply can’t be bothered with the museum queues, a Virtual Tour makes complete sense. It opens up an exhibition in ways you might not have considered previously.
In fact, on the flip-side, some might say that nothing beats the convenience and interaction of a Virtual Tour!
For once you *can* touch (click?) the artwork and finally you have the gallery to yourself.
With that in mind, I thought I’d jot down some benefits of a Virtual Tour from both the visitor and gallery/museum owners experience.
Note: This two-part blog post so I'll start with the visitor benefits and move onto the gallery / museum owner benefits sometime soon.
Gallery / Museum benefits for the visitor...
Because it’s Virtual, you’ll never have to queue. I think that’s a no-brainer.
But it’s not simply the queues into, an exhibition which a virtual visit can avoid. A virtual visit side-steps many other aspects of art exhibitions which we wish we could avoid. You can also skip the queues to the ticket office, security scans and of course, there’s no waiting for the facilities either.
There are also no tickets needed, no peak or rush hours and a virtual exhibition is never closed for maintenance on a Tuesday morning at 8 AM. Which, of course, is the exact time you thought it would be a perfect time to visit the Louvre in Paris and beat the queues! (The Louvre is actually closed all day on Tuesdays).
A Virtual Tour of your favourite gallery is only ever a few clicks away and queue-free. Speaking of The Louvre, I watched the reopening of the world’s most visited museum today after a 4-month shutdown. As you can imagine, it was pretty busy and they do have some Virtual Tours available.
Virtual exhibitions aren’t just queue-free. Crucially, right now they are virus-free too.
Even if you could visit your favourite gallery or exhibition right now, how many people want to be in an enclosed space with lots of strangers?
We’re all eager to get out and see each other and socialise but for many gallery-goers, the risk isn’t worth it. I don’t know what the up-take of Virtual Tours has been during COVID-19 times but there’s barely an art gallery or museum in existence that doesn’t have (or is scrambling to have) a Virtual Tour as part of its experience.
If you’re going to stay home, then a gallery Virtual Tour is one of the best ways to ‘get out’, take your minds off the news and appreciate something beautiful that, hopefully, you can visit in real-life )when ‘all this is over’). No social distancing is required and yet curiously, you could be ‘in’ a gallery with 10s and maybe 100s of others at the same time. You just wouldn't know it.
Incidentally, the Louvre had a 4-day closure in March due to staff concerns around COVID-19 highlighting the fact that Virtual Tours are not just for visitor safety but can also be an important part of staff safety too if needed.
Does this just happen to me? It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and you head into town to see a Museum or exhibition. You’ve sacrificed a well-deserved lie-in but hey, you get to soak up some culture (and avoid weeding the garden).
However, arriving at the door you notice the gallery isn’t open till 12. Or it’s closed for renovation or it's closed for a national holiday. Or you got your dates wrong and the Turner watercolour exhibition has already finished. You get the idea! Taking a Virtual Tour means a gallery is always open to you 24/7 and 365 days a year. Next time, have that lie-in AND see the exhibition with a Virtual Tour.
Get close to the paintings
Whether your art of choice is an Italian masterpiece or a modernist sculpture, gallery visitors are generally not encouraged to get close to the exhibits.
We’ve all heard of the priceless Greek vase and the incident with the tourist or the vandal attacking the masterpiece.
With a Virtual Tour, artwork doesn’t get dirty, never gets knocked over, is vandal-proof. It's the only time you'll visit a Gallery or Museum and are actively encouraged to interact with the art!
By the way, did you know that in Egypt the ancient monuments are under threat from the breath of millions of visitors who visit the ancient tombs ever year? Colours and engravings don't fade with a Virtual Tour.
An interesting fact I just discovered - the term ‘valdalisme’ was coined in 1794 to describe the destruction of artwork following the French Revolution so it's specifically an art-related term.
As children, most of us love drawing and painting. Regardless of what we grow up to be, we all at one stage had a rich visual imagination. Yet, how many of us grow up and lose that connection with art and creativity? And how many children have to be rushed around an art gallery when they really want to be at home playing with an iPad? A 360 degree Virtual Tour is a great way to combine art with technology. It can get children interested in and interacting with art.
Having a Virtual Tour lets children experience art which they might never see in person. With an iPad and VR Tour, they can learn something interesting and memorable about the artwork that they have already seen as a good Virtual Tour can combine audio, visuals and technology into a format that children engage with intuitively.
Meet the artist
Okay, the chances of meeting Van Gough are pretty slim! But how would you like to hear about art in the artist’s own words?
For our Virtual Tour of the Gerard Byrne Gallery in Ranelagh, we’ve combined some short audio clips into a 360-degree experience. Not only can you enjoy the visuals but listening to the story behind some of the paintings really brings the artwork to life. You can look at a painting and understand the story behind it. It takes it off a 2D canvas and transforms it into a living story.
How many times have you been to an exhibition and heard the artist in their own words? Even if the artist in question is a classic, an enthusiastic guide can bring a painting and an artist’s story to life and is relatively easy to do production-wise. A great Virtual Tour doesn’t have to be simply about 360-degree views. Audio is a fundamental part of a great Virtual Tour.
No one to block your view
The Mona Lisa is the most visited painting in the world. Whatever your opinions on the painting, two things are certain.
You should definitely go and see it if you can
You should definitely expect not to see it once you’re there!
The reason is simple but perhaps surprising too. Most of Mona’s admirers are waiting not just to see the painting but to take selfies too.
You could probably wait out the queue if everyone admired the painting and then moved on but selfie-taking means longer wait-times and the raised hands, elbows and cameras will obscure your view even from the back.
So you kind of have to get to the front of the queue to see the painting. I imagine in pre-selfie days you could be middle to back of the queue and reasonably expect to still get have a view of the mysterious lady?
Ok, so not every piece of art is as popular as Mona but with a Virtual Tour, you’ll never have to jostle for the best view. Every painting is right there, in your hands and in front of you. You have the best view in the house.
You can’t put a price on some art and you can’t put a price on experiencing it for real. But getting there often comes with cost whether that cost is time or money. With a Virtual Tour, you can visit Galleries on the other side of the planet for free and instantly too. No plane tickets, taxi journeys or entry fees to see that exhibition in London or Paris and no excuses not to ‘go’.
That's it for the moment. Come back shortly when I'll be listing the benefits of Virtual Tours for gallery and museum owners.