Virtual reality’s presence in the art world is nothing new—world-class institutions ranging from the British Museum to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Tate Modern rely on VR to offer tours of their collections or enhance existing exhibitions. But what makes the new Kremer Museum especially notable is that every aspect of the experience, from its ornate golden frames to domed atrium and painstakingly recreated paintings, is virtual.
According to Brian Boucher of artnet News, collectors George and Illone Kremer, who have spent more than 20 years amassing works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals and other Old Masters, decided to create the digital gallery in conjunction with their son Joël and architect Johan van Lierop
“To design a museum without gravity, plumbing or code regulations is a dream for every architect,” van Lierop says in a press release. “I think VR is to the 21st century what Dutch Realism was for the Golden Age, allowing the observer to escape into an alternative reality or mindset.”
As Bloomberg’s Molly Schuetz reports, van Lierop's digital walkways spiral out from a central plateau, leading viewers into individual galleries filled with landscapes, history scenes and genre paintings. The elaborate, orb-shaped gallery alludes to the artistry of the Dutch Golden Age.
In total, the museum features more than 70 Dutch and Flemish masterpieces. In order to digitize the collection, each painting was photographed between 2,500 and 3,500 times. George Kremer tells Boucher that this technique, known as photogrammetry, allowed the team to “capture the mountains and valleys, shall we say, of the surface of each painting. I want to come as close as possible to the real thing.”
Previously, the Kremers have loaned works from their collection to institutions including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Schuetz writes that the pair wanted to find a permanent home for their collection but were discouraged by the constraints associated with a physical building.
“You can publish catalogues, put together exhibitions, or build a museum, but even then, only one painting can be in one place at a time,” Kremer tells artnet News’ Boucher. “[Now] we can bring people in until the servers burn out.”
The Kremer Museum will be accessible via smartphone app in early 2018. Until then, individuals hoping for a sneak preview can attend one of the museum’s upcoming pop-up events. Dates will be announced on the Kremer Collection’s website.