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May 2016

REALLY Immerse Yourself in Art with Virtual Reality

Thanks to a new virtual reality project launched this week by the Google Cultural Institute, you can now immerse yourself in one of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s most bizarre paintings and hang out with the peculiar creatures that cover its canvas. The project, which brings to life the Flemish master’s 1562 “The Fall of the Rebel Angels,” is viewable on YouTube but is best experienced on headsets such as a Google Cardboard mask. While the Institute has recently brought 360-degree videos of performances closer to audiences around the world, this marks the first time it has created a virtual reality experience for an artwork.

While the performance videos were a little underwhelming, this new video is actually pretty neat. It transports you directly to the artwork’s current home — the Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium, which worked in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute — where it pulls you into the image. As a narrator explains the scene, which shows the moment a gold armor-adorned St. Michael expels the devil from paradise, you’re surrounded by the flapping wings of angels transformed into demons, of butterflies, and of hybrid monsters, some possibly inspired by Hieronymus Bosch, as your guide mentions. Above you, a swarm of beasts appears to spiral from the white heavens; below lies a murky darkness just visible past the crowd of waving limbs, claws, and tails.


The experience is part of Bruegel: Unseen Masterpieces, a collaborative project between Google Cultural Institute and eight major international museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, London’s Royal Collection Trust, and Copenhagen’s Statens Museum for Kunst. Over 200 of Bruegel’s paintings, drawn from the collections of these institutions, were digitized and published online, allowing anyone with an internet connection to explore them through extremely high resolution images accompanied by detailed annotations.

The art-meets-tech experience also has a physical component at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium, where visitors may engage with the Bruegels on view through more virtual reality and screen-based projects. The museum’s officials launched the collaboration with Google in anticipation of the 450th anniversary of the painter’s death, which will be in 2019.

This was reported on HyperAllergic.

Street Artist Blu Destroys 20 Years of His Work in Bologna to Protest an Exhibition

Blu03-768x511This from Hyperallergic - On Saturday night, the renowned and mysterious Italian street artist Blu went on an art-destroying spree through the streets of Bologna. The work he erased was his own — with the help of activist groups XM24 and Crash, Blu covered 20 years’ worth of massive, colorful murals with gray paint.

The gesture was an act of protest against an upcoming exhibition, Street Art: Banksy & Co., which opens Friday in Bologna’s historic Palazzo Pepoli. The exhibition, co-organized by the privately funded cultural institution Genus Bononiae and the Arthemisia Group, features 250 works of street art, some of which were removed from their original public locations without the artists’ consent. The show was curated by one of the city’s wealthiest patrons, Fabio Roversi Monaco, president of both the Academy of Fine Arts and the powerful Banca Imi.

When Blu learned that the exhibition will include some of his own work, Genus Bononiae’s attempt to “[salvage street art] from demolition and [preserve it] from the injuries of time,” as they put it, dramatically backfired. 

Blu’s destruction of his remaining murals in Bologna, as the leftist artist collective Wu Ming explained on its blog (per the artist’s request), keeps it away from private institutions. The gesture is intended to expose the hypocrisy of a city that “on the one hand criminalizes graffiti, puts 16-year-old writers on trial, praises ‘urban decorum,’ and on the other celebrates herself as the cradle of street art and wants to retrieve it for valorization on the market.” Just last month, another globetrotting Italian street artist, Alice Pasquini, was fined €800 (~$889) for a graffiti-related offense. In this context, the collective wrote, “the only thing left to do is [to make] these paintings disappear, to snatch them from those claws, to make hoarding impossible.”

We reached out to Blu and the Wu Ming Foundation for more commentary, but as the Wu Ming Foundation made clear in a blunt email, Blu never does interviews:

Blu never talks to journalists, he never gives interviews, he doesn’t even write about the meaning of his work or his actions or “how it feels,” nothing like that. He only draws murals or, in this case, he erases them. Silently. That’s why he asked us to write a statement about his latest action, which we did. However, the agreement we have with Blu is: no interviews, and we respect that. Sorry, we cannot help you.

Blu and his comrades taped up said statement at the sites of the destroyed murals, and also posted it online. “Seeing street art exhibited in a museum is paradoxical and grotesque,” they wrote of Banksy and Co. “This ‘street art’ exhibition is representative of a model of urban space that we must fight, a model based on private accumulation which commodifies life and creativity for the profits of the usual few people.”

This isn’t Blu’s first brush with censorship, self-inflicted or otherwise. In 2012, a mural he created as part of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s Art in the Streets exhibition was whitewashed (prompting him to repeatedly break his own “never talks to journalists” rule). In 2014, he and artist Lutz Henke (with some help) painted over an iconic, collaborative mural in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood to protest the area’s gentrification.

Blu’s desire to retain control of what uses his street art is put toward — and keep it out of the hands of those seeking to profit from it — echoes Banksy’s reaction to the Sincura Art Club‘s 2014 auction of his “sensitively salvaged” works of street art. “This show has got nothing to do with me and I think it’s disgusting people are allowed to go around displaying art on walls without getting permission,” Banksy wrote at the time in a statement on his website.