Because art museums partly exist to preserve the past, they’re often associated with ancient relics and artifacts. In recent years, this mission has been juxtaposed with futuristic technology, making the museum experience more accessible and more interactive than ever before.
An Interesting Engineering article suggests, “With…new mediums at their disposal, curators and owners have tackled three major challenges in the exhibition art world; how to get people inside your museum, how to keep people in your museum, and how to embrace new artistic technology.” This artistic technology democratizes museums so they’re exciting and engaging for all visitors, not just art buffs.
Technology and the Spectator
Museums are embracing technology that elevates visitors’ experiences. According to the same article, New York’s Metropolitan Museum is filled with informative touch screens that provide historical context for their collections.
For those inspired to create their own art, interactive displays are even more immersive. At The Cleveland Museum of Art, guests can enter an interactive studio and, all through moving their bodies, take part in virtual painting, collaging, and pottery.
Spectators can also research featured artists, what Econsultancy calls “a more social and collaborative way of learning more about the collections.” Interactive studios can function based on hand movement, footsteps, touch, voice – the possibilities are endless.
It’s also easy to incorporate other technology to supplement the artwork, blurring the lines between our physical and digital reality. As explained by The Franklin Institute, augmented reality (AR) “adds digital elements to a live view often by using the camera on a smartphone.” Imagine pointing your phone at The Starry Night and viewing animations about Van Gogh, landscapes depicting his home, and directions to his other paintings. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, “implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world.” Both options truly bring the art to life.
Museums can also utilize tech to collect invaluable feedback from visitors. The Internet of Things (IoT), a growing trend that can link up smartphones with a museum’s technology, can collect data on guests’ behavior, gauging how many people are interested in a collection. Even simpler, The Brooklyn Museum found success installing kiosks intended for visitors to leave comments. This data can influence curators’ decisions and improve the museum.
Technology and the Artist
Technology is also impacting how we conceptualize the artist. In 2018, for instance, a painting created by an artificial intelligence method called Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) sold for $432,500 at the famous Christie’s auction house. The AI artwork is a portrait of a gentleman, part of a larger group of portraits depicting the fictional Belamy family. Hugo Caselles-Dupré, one member of the team, says that this AI portraiture is meant to prove that “‘algorithms are able to emulate creativity.’” Displaying artwork created by AI is sure to draw visitors.
Aside from this artificial creation, technology is even able to breathe life into deceased artists. The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida has opened an exhibition called Dalí Lives based on a jarringly realistic deepfake of Salvador Dalí.
According to The Verge, the museum used a video editing technique enabled by machine learning to examine old interview footage and capture 6,000 frames. Dalí’s facial expressions are coupled with a voice actor, allowing the artist, who died in 1989, to greet visitors today at the museum honoring his work.
By pressing a doorbell on a touchscreen kiosk, visitors make Dalí appear. He tells stories about his life, can comment on the weather, and eventually takes a selfie with guests. Such technology effectively closes the gap between artistic genius of the past and modern spectators.
Whether through an interactive studio, an AR guide, or a convincing deepfake, artistic technology engages all the senses and makes breathtaking art approachable. Melding our past, present and future, this tech is nothing short of a masterpiece.