The COVID-19 pandemic forced many museums to reinvent themselves and reflect on how art could be brought to the public online. Virtual tours and podcast stories are just some examples of what emerged these past months.
The trend isn’t new though. In Geneva, the Musée d’ethnographie or the Musée d’art et d’histoire feature their collections online. The Geneva International Film Festival has gone even further by presenting its “VR Museum” project worldwide since 2018. The public literally dives into major works with pieces by Manet, Hodler, Vallotton or Böckli and discovers an imaginary and sensory universe, nourished by the painter's psyche.
But, this week, a whole new experience is brought to you by the Virtual Online Museum of Art (VOMA), imagined by the British Museum Director Lee Cavaliere and artist Stuart Semple. VOMA will present works from prominent institutions around the world: the Musée d’Orsay, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
What makes it special. VOMA focuses on the realness of the experience. The building itself is not flirting with fantasy. On the contrary. According to the museum’s architect, Emily Mann, it is rooted in a common physical language to assist the transition into a digital landscape.
The building, for example, reflects the impacts of the light, the wind, or the rain. The project also addresses social issues, such as access to art and museums in the first place, as Stuart Semple explains:
“A virtual viewing room can feel like a lonely place – quiet, empty, sometimes slightly uneasy. In building and curating VOMA, we wanted to get away from that feeling, which is not all that different from walking into a snooty, silent gallery space and feeling a bit self-conscious. We wanted to integrate the sense of community and buzz of going to a cool museum, where there are often so many different shows going on, and immersive or interactive experiences.”
The art is accessible in high resolution, and visitors can choose to go wherever they want, inside and outside of the building itself.
What you will see. As an opening show, VOMA will feature major artists, such as Hieronymus Bosch, Edouard Manet, Martin Gustavsson, or Caravaggio, with a large range of related media and events to enrich the immersive experience.
All of this for free. One question remains: will our emotional connection to the art be part of the journey? There is only one way to know. Click, and try.