RoART goes virtual by Arbor Association for Culture and Arts
The creation of the www.theopen-art.com VR gallery during the lockdown was made possible due to a hardworking team from Romania: Bucharest (Victoria Nagy Vajda - project manager, Doinel Tronaru - Communication Officer, Arbor Romania and Ciprian and Dan Facaeru, Augmented Space Agency), Tg. Mures (Andrei Gusan, Happy Pixels SRL), Republic of Moldova, Chisinau (Anastasia Gurschi, Iurie Foca, Arbor Moldova) and Germany, Berlin (Dmitry and Artemy Vrubel, VRTIM). Dmitry Vrubel, the well-known Russian artist based in Berlin designed the VR Gallery. During the development of the platform, all team members and artists involved worked from home. The development of the website took some five months, but Arbor keeps developing the website, while since June 2021 the VR exhibition are available also on VR headset to any interested users.
RoART goes virtual by Arbor Association for Culture and Arts
The idea of creating a Virtual Reality (VR) Art Gallery came to mind and was put into action during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Currently, it holds 12 VR exhibitions of Moldovan and Romanian artists, including two exhibitions featuring art and objects from the National Museum of History of Moldova and National Museum of Literature "Mihail Kogalniceanu" from Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. The platform was developed by Arbor Association for Culture and Arts (Romania) and its satellite institution in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova - Arbor Institute for Culture, with the support of the Swiss Cooperation Office from the Swiss Embassy. Through this platform Arbor Association aims to promote Romanian and Moldovan art using VR technologies, to familiarize the public with a new cultural experience accessible to all, at any time, from any place, and to offer artists and cultural managers the advantages of using VR technologies to promote cultural products.
The www.theopen-art.com website is a pioneer in promoting art using VR technologies in Romania and Republic of Moldova. Whilst in most parts of the western world the pandemic accelerated the need and the use of VR technologies, most of the Romanian gallerists, curators and museum managers remain skeptical to this day on the opportunities presented by VR technologies for promoting art. Nevertheless, Arbor Association had the courage to break the ice to make art available via VR and keep up the good work on developing the auditorium in interacting with art via VR (from a computer or using VR headsets). Developing and diversifying the customer base is an important priority for Arbor Association. Attracting the young generations along with the elder generations is high on the priority list. As soon as the pandemic restrictions will be lifted, Arbor plans to organize public events, where everyone interested will be invited to try one the VR headset. Arbor’s VR exhibitions can also be accessed from any computer browser, at any time and from any place. Arbor’s www.theopen-art.com customer base has been continuously expanding. Since its launch on August 21, 2020 to May 7, 2021, the VR exhibitions have been accessed by around 9000 visitors, mainly from Moldova and Romania, while the USA, Russia, France, UK, Ukraine and Italy were among the top international countries foreign visitors came from. Theopen-art.com space was set up to address the following needs: • to develop the interaction of visual arts with innovative technologies, including VR; • to expand the promotion capacity and increase the visibility of art online; • to create an interactive space between the artist and the public; • to satisfy the ever-increasing need to access art and culture at any time and from any place; • to promote access to culture and education to all, regardless of age, status, disability, country of residence; • to promote Romanian and Moldovan art beyond their borders; • to establish new collaborations at the national and international level between artists and representatives of cultural institutions, including supporting museums in exhibiting their heritage via VR. Arbor is very keen to support Moldovan museums using its knowledge and experience with VR technologies. Because of the acute lack of financial resources these museums are unable to promote their patrimony using new technologies. Arbor Association finds that its contribution to the modernization of their capability to exhibit and share their artwork is important and needed, especially in countries like Moldova where culture is not a national priority. As previously mentioned, out of the ten VR exhibitions at Arbor, two were organised in partnership with the Moldovan national museums displaying artwork and objects from their heritage. Evidence to Arbor Association’s ambition to promote national artistic patrimony is the reconstruction in VR of Valentina Rusu Ciobanu’s art studio. She is one of the most famous Moldovan artists. Born in Chisinau in 1920, Valentina Rusu Ciobanu belongs to the generation of visual Moldovan artists that emerged in Romania’s cultural milieu between the two world wars, working in the second half of the 20th century, which was dominated by the harsh environment of the former Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime. The reconstruction of Valentina Rusu Ciobanu's work studio from 1985 VR was based on the images of the documentary film "Confession" (1985), by Mircea Chistruga, and Moldova Film Studio production. The virtual work studio tried to preserve the ambiance and the physical space in which the painter Valentina Rusu Ciobanu created her most important artwork, currently exhibited in several museums in the Republic of Moldova, as well as in private collections. The reconstruction of the work studio took 150 days, during which documentary materials were studied, including artwork, objects and furniture, as well as their specific place within that space. The studio was reconstructed at a scale of 1:1, and through photogrammetry technology over 12,000 photos were processed, to set-up in 3D the entire studio. Valentina Rusu Ciobanu’s VR work studio from 1985 can now be accessed by anyone via the Oculus Quest VR application or any GL web platform. This major work was done to celebrate Valentina Rusu Ciobanu’s centenary on 28 October 2020. Despite the enviable age, Valentina put on the VR headset and went into her studio after years from the time she closed its real door. She was delighted and happy with the experience and from what we know Valentian Rusu Ciobanu is the first 100 years old artist to hold and go into a VR art studio, setting a world record. Making art exhibitions in VR is a challenge that opens many opportunities for artists and curators. VR is flexible in developing exhibition concepts by developing art spaces built in various shapes, sizes, structures, which can further emphasize the work put on display. In a conventional space certain ideas cannot be implemented, due to the specificity of the space, inaccessible materials, or high costs, whilst VR does not have these limitations. VR can also help recover long gone or inaccessible heritage and artwork, it has the capacity to reconstruct missing pieces and bring back to the public lost national heritage in a virtual form. Each VR art exhibition project involves a team of artists, curators, designers, art historians and art critics, cultural commenters and translators. Each exhibition has a unique concept and a different design, has its own public and followers, and each one competes for due attention and appreciation. Arbor Association for Culture and Arts has a big role to play in the promotion and support of artists from Romania and Republic of Moldova, as well as artists from the neighboring countries. Arbor is working hard to promote artists and to increase people’s interest in art and culture, therefore the team behind the association is happy with progress every step of the way and tries hard to translate “culture as a lifestyle” into reality for our society!