Phygitalism is the new trend
The pandemic has pushed forward the place of the digital in every sector, and the arts is at the forefront of this movement. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), NFTs, the Metaverse, Artificial Intelligence (AI) have taken visual arts by storm, creating both new opportunities and challenges for artists and art institutions.
A current trend worth observing is the growth of “phygital art”. What does it mean? It describes the concept of creating a bridge between the digital and the physical (IRL) worlds.
We’ve made a selection of artists and art institutions embracing this hybrid approach, reflecting on the place of the digital in our lives and finding innovative ways to connect with the public, blurring the lines between both realms.
Stars of the art market
KAWS, AR sculptures
KAWS, SEEING, 2022, augmented reality sculpture at Serpentine North Gallery. Courtesy of KAWS and Acute Art.
Brian Donnelly alias KAWS created a sensation in 2020 when he produced Expanded Holiday, his first augmented reality sculptures. Thanks to his collaboration with Acute Art, the public could visualize, through their smartphones, his Companion sculptures in the public space. In 2022, KAWS renewed the experience with NEW FICTION, a solo exhibition in London, presented with Serpentine and Acute Art. A parallel digital version of the show launched simultaneously in Fortnite, the video game by Epic Games. Players were able to explore the Serpentine gardens, interact with KAWS’ artworks and experience his iconic sculptures in a completely unique way.
Murakami: from digital to physical artworks
Takashi Murakami An Arrow through History, 980 Madison Ave installation view, 2022 Artworks © 2022 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved Courtesy Gagosian Photo: Rob McKeever` Courtesy Gagosian
Murakami explains: “When I work on a creative production, I make no distinction between digital and analog.” The artist went phygital with two simultaneous exhibitions : IRL at Gagosian’s New York galleries, and an immersive viewing experience, created by RTFKT and Oncyber, via gagosian.com or through a VR headset (until June 25, 2022).
The NFTs artworks, initially created digitally, have been transposed to the physical realm into hand-painted portraits and sculptures. In addition, and going full circle, visitors on-site can activate numerous custom Snapchat Lenses to view augmented-reality animations in each gallery and on the building’s exterior.
Artists to watch
Affirmation Ads by Gretchen Andrew: from Instagram ad to an oil painting
Gretchen Andrew: The artist who hacks Google and Meta
Gretchen Andrew is a “search engine and social media imperialist artist”. In her series "Vision Boards", she targeted the power of Big Tech through Google with her search engine manipulations. Works were both physical pieces and NFTs with her algorithm manipulations. The artist now turns against the advertising-based structures of Meta in her series Affirmation Ads. The series includes paintings, based on ads targeted to her on Instagram and digital “fake ads” available on her Instagram shop with the affirmation “I already have everything I need to be beautiful”. By converting the advertisement’s digital content into something hand drawn and impastoed the artist’s skill works in the space of Warhol’s advertising appropriation without getting lost in it.
Sergio Gomez: giving life to paintings with augmented reality
Artwork by Sergio Gomez with augmented reality experiences, powered by Artivive
Sergio Gomez is known for his large-scale figurative abstraction artworks on the theme of the cycle of life. His 2022 solo exhibition Transfiguration, both in-person in Chicago and online, presents paintings with augmented reality experiences, powered by Artivive. The app enables viewers to see, through their smartphone, the paintings coming to life with animations that are available as NFTs. “Beyond the medium and the how, what matters is the experience for viewers and the message carried by the work” says the artist who also wears the hats of gallerist, curator and educator.
Leo Caillard x Roger Kilimanjaro
Video Stills: MELT by Leo Caillard and Roger Kilimanjaro
Both approaches are reunited in this collaborative collection between digital artist Roger Kilimanjaro, known for his playful and high-end loop animations and sculptor Léo Caillard who explores with talent the topic of antiquity in art.
Their collaboration “MELT” is composed of three videos released on Nifty Gateway: Melting Aphrodite, Melting Hercules and Melting Laocoon. The collectors who acquired the NFTs were eligible to receive physical statues either in marble or metal.
View full video here.
Instagram @leocaillard and @rogerkilimanjaro
Laurence de Valmy: interactive artworks with QR code
#allconnected, Archival giclee on Canson Rag Photographique 310 gsm and NFT limited editions, Laurence de Valmy, Courtesy of the artist
The artist is known for her series POST, in which she paints Instagram of the past, connecting art history and social media. In her series #Hashtagsareart, she creates artworks combining text and QR codes. QR codes usage has exploded during the pandemic and it has inspired the artist to connect her physical artworks with NFTs. The QR code directs viewers of the physical works to animations, available as NFT on voice.com. “I like the interactive aspect of the QR code and hope that once viewers have seen the animation, they keep it in mind when they see the physical artwork.” Buying some of her NFTs gives access to limited edition prints. Therefore collectors can have both versions of the artworks as in her project #allconnected.
Greg Smith: an installation giving away digital assets
Greg Smith, Citizen, at Susan Inglett Gallery, credit Adam Reich - Courtesy of the artist
If you own a crypto wallet, you have been given a group of 12 words serving as a backup phrase to recover your assets. These 12 words are pulled from the BIP39 word list composed of 2048 words. The BIP39 word list has inspired Greg Smith in his latest solo exhibition Absent Word Double, (March 2022) at Susan Inglett Gallery in Chelsea, NY. He presented a series of “banners” combining various materials with words, picked from the BiP39 list. “It’s terribly difficult to write something reasonable using the BIP39 word list since so many important words are missing, but at the same time these awkward phrases can link to the Ethereum blockchain in a natural way, creating a sort of digital reality that sits alongside the physical show within the gallery.” says the artist.
To go further, Greg Smith linked actual digital wallets to the phrases included in his artworks and the visitors of the exhibition could grab the assets. One of them, a parcel of land in Wyoming part of the cityDAO project, was claimed by a lucky visitor.
Museums and institutions
The opportunity for museums and institutions is to showcase more of their collection, educate in an interactive way and attract a younger public born with a phone in their hand. Here are some initiatives that add value and create new experiences.
Famous artists such as Van Gogh (with no less than 5 different exhibitions), Kahlo, Klimt or Picasso are the subjects of immersive exhibitions combining images and sound. Based on world famous physical artworks, these digital exhibitions are an in person experience. They do not replace the value of seeing the original art they are based on, they create a different experience and are a work of art in themselves.
The success of immersive exhibitions showing in cities across Europe, Asia, and North America demonstrate that the public is eager to experience art in physical ways.
History enhanced in Avignon
After its glory in the 14th century, the Palace of the Pope in Avignon and its vibrant medieval frescos gradually deteriorated until it became a museum in the 20th century. Since 2021, the palace has found a way to show nine major rooms as they were in the 14th century thanks to an interactive tablet. The Histopad uses augmented reality and 3-D technology and enables each visitor to travel back in time. A creative way to make visitors experience a place as it was in the past, when the restoration of the monument is simply too grand to be sustainable.
Press release Palais des Papes
The future is phygital
When photography was invented, some thought painting was dead. Little did they know that photography helped to democratize the access to culture and increased interest in the arts. In the same vein, access to the internet, smartphone and social media increased the attraction for people to visit museums and travel.
New technologies inspire artists from all backgrounds and a phygital approach is clearly offering creative opportunities for the arts. Phygital experiences or artworks offer new ways to reach a public in demand of such innovations. It probably makes culture more accessible and creates a closer proximity between artists and their followers.
The future is now!