COVID-19 has put a stop to many art shows, exhibitions and cultural events all over the world, with creatives being forced to adapt to the ongoing situation in inventive ways. The latest example is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which has just launched an interactive virtual art exhibition featuring augmented reality versions of iconic Met masterpieces.

Created in partnership with Verizon, The Met Unframed offers access to immersive digital galleries, with select works of art “coming to life” through clever use of augmented reality technology. It even includes a gaming experience. Featuring over a dozen digitally-rendered galleries and nearly 50 works of art from across the Met’s collection, the website invites online visitors to explore galleries and play games. Objects come to life in augmented reality with the virtual layout displaying art from across millennia and from all over the world.

Virtual installation view of “The Met Unframed,”
The experience uses ground-breaking technology to create an engaging virtual experience © Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Verizon

Running for free for five weeks, highlights from the collection include works by contemporary artists El Anatsui, Mark Bradford, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Sam Gilliam, and Carmen Herrera. It has all of the Met’s five paintings by American modernist Jacob Lawrence and massive works like the Temple of Dendur (completed by 10 BCE) in the Egyptian wing, and a 14th-century Chinese mural depicting the Buddha of Medicine.

Virtual installation view of “The Met Unframed,”
Online visitors can peruse over 50 celebrated works © Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Verizon

Visitors to The Met Unframed are first welcomed into a detailed rendering of the museum’s Great Hall, where Kent Monkman’s diptych mistikôsiwak: Wooden Boat People (2019) hangs, and from there banners offer themed concepts (Power, Home, Nature and Journey) that visitors can explore. The high-fidelity gallery and art renderings in this experience were modelled by 3D artists based on the Met’s collection of images. Games in the experience include trivia questions, riddles, and a “Zoom and Spot” challenge, encouraging close observation of the works of art and accompanying descriptions and content, while a game called “Analysis” uses the Met's infrared scans of paintings to give users a glimpse of underdrawings and other hidden details of well-known Met paintings that would go unseen in an in-person visit to the museum. 

“Our mission since the Met’s founding 150 years ago has been to connect people to art and ideas, and to one another—something we’ve found to be more powerful than ever over these last months of isolation and uncertainty. The Met Unframed brings the museum to audiences wherever they are in an innovative viewing experience in which users can virtually visit iconic spaces and engage with the Met’s masterpieces, learn more about the works in a playful way through AR, and enjoy bringing the art into one’s own surroundings,” said Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

More information is available at the official website.

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