“I wanted to create a neighborhood of art, rather than a building,” said French architect Jean Nouvel on his latest creation, the Louvre Abu Dhabi. He has undoubtedly achieved this marrying the old with the new, culture with technology – to create a vibrant community space.
This neighborhood spirit springs out of this huge fettered dome in the desert, surrounded by a cluster of white cubes, pavilions, trickling pools and serene walkways. Inside, the beauty and inspiration of works by world-renowned artists throughout history can be appreciated by physical visitors and virtually via an app.
The white alleyways and reflective waterways in the virtual tour mesmerize me. The way Nouvel has cleverly conjured up a village atmosphere in what is first and foremost an art gallery come across so clearly. Yes, I am still amazed at the way technology can link us on an emotional level with places we wish to – and sometimes may never visit.
As you may have guessed, I am fascinated by architecture and can’t wait to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi and appreciate its innovative design for myself. It is why I often visit the Frank Gehry designed Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Here, like many other museums and galleries around the world, it is using technology to provide visitors with an immersive digital experience.
Technology is revolutionizing the way we appreciate art and architecture. It can help tell stories behind the creations, give us a glimpse into the lives of the creators and stimulate our emotions. Suddenly, culture is no longer a static experience.
Bringing culture back to life
Technology is helping museums and galleries to increase their reach, especially making them more accessible and attractive to younger generations. The Cleveland Museum of Art in the U.S., for example, has opened the ArtLens gallery that includes a 40-foot interactive wall that links with all of the exhibits on display, together with specific artworks that incorporate games and gesture-sensing projections. Visitors can save their experiences on an app to take home.
Gone are the days of audio headsets. Beacons are being used to give real context to visitors. With beacons, an app can sense exactly where a visitor is in the gallery and provide instant and relevant information on the work of art or artifact he/she is looking at. The iBeacon app used by Bristol Museum in the UK has gamification included to further enhance the visitor experience. Technology is also giving us access to art we may not have been privileged to see before. Earlier this year, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art digitized over 3,000 images from its collection. This open access concept is an exciting prospect for the world of art and is one I’m watching enthusiastically.
It doesn’t stop there. Augmented reality and 3D printing are exciting prospects for the world of culture. Augmented reality exhibits have been around for a while, but galleries are experimenting with new ways to use the technology. The Albertina Gallery in Vienna has just launched an augmented reality app that when held up to a work of art, elements can be moved around. The app also tells visitors about when, how and where the works were created.
3D printing can also be a boon to education, by allowing students to print out 3D images of artifacts to see how they were made. The British Museum in London has already created 3D models of busts, statues and sarcophagi from its collection that can be downloaded and printed.
Technology is also helping to deliver training and immerse visitors in a new learning experience. Orange Business Services, for example, is working with the Louvre to deliver Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Corporate Open Online Courses (COOCs).
Culture: facing the future
I am thrilled to see the way galleries and museums are embracing technology to reach out to new and existing audiences. Technology is helping to captivate, educate and inform and is allowing us to form connections with art and artifacts, be it as a visitor or on a virtual level.
Galleries and museums are no longer passive buildings. They are creative and engaging community spaces, just as Jean Nouvel envisaged with the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
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