Old Master Paintings

New Kremer Museum Brings Virtual Reality to Old Masters

By Jane Morris

Digital rendering of the virtual reality-based Kremer Museum

Interest in virtual reality (VR) has been growing especially rapidly since the release of the Oculus Rift gaming headset in 2016, so it is not surprising that contemporary artists have been embracing the technology in their work. But it is also opening up exciting possibilities for much older works of art, as the launch of the Kremer Museum last week at Sotheby's demonstrates.

The Kremer Museum has been created by the Kremer Collection, a Netherlands-based private organisation devoted to 17th- century Dutch and Flemish art. It is a virtual reality experience that allows visitors to view the collection, which has been assembled over more than 20 years by the businessman George Kremer and his wife Ilone, in a digital museum. It includes masterpieces by artists including Gerrit Dou, Frans Hals, Jan Lievens and Rembrandt among others. Many of the works from the collection have been on display in exhibitions and on long-term loans to international museums, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

George and Ilone Kremer

A total of 74 works are on show in the museum, which has been designed by Johan van Lierop, the founder of Architales design studio who has worked on major museum projects including the much admired Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Bloch Building in Kansas City, Missouri and the Zhang Zhidong and Modern Industrial Museum in Wuhan, China. He says: “Designing a museum without gravity is a dream for every architect, creating a metaphysical space purely for the experience of art.” He continues: “VR is to the 21st century what Dutch Realism was for the Golden Age, allowing the observer to escape into an alternative reality or mindset.”

Johannes Lingelbach, Peasants Dancing the Tarantella (detail), 1660-1662. Courtesy Kremer Collection

The virtual museum allows visitors to navigate through galleries, walking up close to pictures and viewing the surfaces—even the backs of works—in a way that would be impossible in a traditional museum space. The software design is by Moyosa Media and, thanks to the use of a high-resolution camera photographing each work between 2,500 and 3,500 times, the visible details of each work are exceptional.

Digital rendering of the virtual reality-based Kremer Museum

The launch of the virtual reality system is accompanied by the announcement of TKC Mighty Masters, an education programme that will see virtual reality sets and a teaching pack sent to schools in remote regions around the world. To select its first schools, TKC Mighty Masters will partner with India’s Delivering Change Foundation to host a drawing contest among over one million children in India.

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