Using AR to change the context in which we understand significant artworks
The Sainsbury Centre is one of the most prominent university art galleries in Britain and a major national centre for the study and presentation of art. Since the ‘70s, the centre has showcased some of the most remarkable works of art assembled in the UK – with pieces donated by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury that span 5,000 years of human creativity, including artworks by Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti.
A popular destination for art-lovers and visitors alike, the Sainsbury Centre – like so many destinations – was forced to close its doors during lockdown. But that didn’t stop them seeking to reach out and continue teaching the importance of art – so they took their study centre virtual, and came to us for an AR app that would enable users to view and learn about key artworks, even when the gallery was closed.
The AR app focuses on six key sculptures by Elisabeth Frink, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, Ian Tyson, Laurence Edwards and Antony Gormley, all of which are exhibited in key positions around the Sainsbury Centre.
We used photogrammetry to recreate the artworks as accurately as possible in 3D and built the app to allow users to place the modelled sculpture in any environment they choose, where they can manipulate it by rotating its position and changing its scale. To encourage sharing, we enabled the app to take photos of the AR sculptures in situ and either save them to their devices or upload them to social media.
The app forms an engaging part of the Virtual Art and Environment Study Centre, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and enables users to gain and understand new perspectives on the chosen artworks. The app is designed to be used off-site, in tandem with online courses available through the study centre, and prompts users to consider how context influences our response to art. To support this, the app also contains images and panoramic videos that show the sculpture in its original environment – enabling users to compare it to the surroundings in which they are viewing the artwork, whether that’s a living room or a busy street. Importantly, the app is a simple yet effective tool for the Sainsbury Centre to continue teaching about the impact of art – which remains relevant and useful beyond lockdown.
Do you have a message you want to convey? A situation that needs simulating, or an audience that needs reaching? Whatever your challenge – we have the ideas, the experience, and the equipment to help.