Hauser & Wirth unveils VR program to explore virtual exhibitions

Wirth the Wait

Hauser & Wirth unveils VR program to explore virtual exhibitions

The inaugural exhibition in the virtual model of Hauser & Wirth Menorca will contain 3D assets of the gallery’s art database. (Courtesy Hauser & Wirth)

Last Summer, the Zurich-based contemporary and modern art gallery Hauser & Wirth began the development of Artlab, a research and innovation arm intended to “create bespoke technology solutions for the most pressing issues in the art world, including greater accessibility and sustainability.” The first initiative explored by the program is Hauser & Wirth Virtual Reality (HWVR), a novel virtual reality exhibition modeling tool that will allow the gallery to present work remotely in an effort to reduce the amount of travel and transportation commonly associated with the exhibition of artwork.

While the initial plan was to slowly test and roll out the technology over the course of several years, the sudden closure of the gallery’s multiple outposts around the world in response to the novel coronavirus epidemic inspired the Artlab team to accelerate its development. “Given the current situation, with so many in essential self-isolation, we are accelerating the launch of ArtLab’s programs with a new approach to virtual reality exhibitions that can engage as many people as possible and bring them together while we’re all apart,” the gallery’s co-president Iwan Wirth said in a press statement.

buildings on a small island
Though Hauser & Wirth Menorca is not expected to be completed until 2021, it will “open” in the virtual realm as the host of the gallery’s first online exhibition. (Courtesy Hauser & Wirth)

The gallery’s first entirely VR-based exhibition will take place later this month in a 3D model of Hauser & Wirth Menorca, a forthcoming outpost in a former hospital building on an island in Menorca, Spain, that is currently being restored by the Paris-based architect Luis Laplace. Additionally, Artlab will host a “digital residency program” at its Los Angeles outpost that will connect artists with the VR technology to develop novel uses of their own.

Hauser & Wirth claims that the program is the first initiative of its kind to be developed entirely within the art world to create true-to-life exhibition spaces, comparable to the fidelity found in the latest video game technology, by developing a technique for converting the gallery’s database of artworks in 3D assets. “HWVR builds the virtual 3D space from the ground up at a pixel level, rather than relying on combined photos, which gives an unprecedented level of flexibility,” the gallery boasted.