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Gallery Experience

Our new normal underscores the importance of curated virtualisation of exhibits to cultivate engagement, while art galleries go quiet, museums close, and retail spaces limit gatherings.

Some common challenges to achieve a virtual gallery experience include optimising digital technology to share collections, scale-up, reach to target audiences, and providing all-around coverage without losing authenticity.

Photograph by: Igor Miske

How will digitalisation expand the definition of the gallery experience?

How will online galleries broach the grander art landscape and embody the objectives of its institutions? Can an online gallery ever be an acceptable replacement for a physical visit to  walls of paintings, corridors of artifacts?

To unpack the concept of a gallery itself within the context of art displays and museums, the conventional definition is inextricable from a location-based, spatial experience; it is to enter a building wherein valuable objects of expression are housed, curated, and showcased to an audience.

An online gallery breaks the fifth wall of what an audience expects to experience within the boundaries of a physical gallery. Virtual galleries amplify the impact of an exhibition by expanding access to visitors anywhere to experience compelling stories.

Without the limits of location or constraints of space, curation can utilise digitalisation to create a personalised connection between artefacts of institutions and visitors.

Photograph by: Stale Grut

Why digitalisation matters

Accessibility new regulations restrict numbers of visitors on premises, discouraging crowded hotspots and limiting spatial scalability to maintain safe distancing. 

An online gallery allows content to be shared across borders whilst preserving the condition of originals. The objective is to augment the curated narrative, thereby enhancing the immersive emotional surge and lived experience of art.

Yet, seeing the minute cracks in the aged paintings of Van Gogh through the Google Arts & Culture project is not a substitute for viewing the originals. Gazing upon Leonardo da Vinci’s Monalisa  with my own eyes at the Louvre, could never be replaced by an online representation about it.

Or so I believed. While shoving through crowds of people – a far cry from our post-COVID reality – and fighting for the best viewing space in the crowd of tourists in front of the red velvet rope barrier separating us from the painting, I realised something. My earlier studies in literature, art, and online exposure to the painting had already in fact materialised my own virtual  experience of the painting.

Prior to my first footfall in the Louvre, or even France, I already had a  meaningful personal connection with the masterpiece. The physical visit was simply my rendezvous to consummate that sentimental bond.

Photograph by:Juan di Nella

How could an online gallery help to present the exhibits better?

Galleries mustn’t be distracted by novelties of emerging technologies, in order to  focus on their core purpose in using an online medium to bridge a meaningful connection between exhibits and the audience.

In the long run, galleries nurture wider spectrums of experience through the appreciation and preservation of important cultural moments in time. To align with this objective, key features of digitalisation include measurement and personalisation.

Engagement metrics that can be captured, aggregated, and analysed are useful to design future iterations. 

While respecting personal data regulations, we can develop a more personal, curated story for the audience. For example, narratives can be adjusted to the demographic profile of the viewers; students, tourists, and even connoisseurs of art will appreciate a personalised experience attuned with their interest in the gallery.

By addressing multiple audiences, we showcase more customised language to engender learning and engagement. 

Photograph by:Kari Shea

Engagement Ideas

Creative ideas abound to digitally connect galleries to their audiences via online content such as: web-based interactive content,  artifact virtualisation, experimental microsite, Virtual Reality (VR)/ Augmented Reality (AR)/ Mixed Reality (MR) content.

Some engagement ideas: Tik Tok/ Instagram campaign, Zoom storytelling, Facebook live events with live Q&A, YouTube interviews with the curators/artists themselves, or virtual gallery tours hosted by exhibition curators, online workshop, etc.

To prevent medium fatique, the only options are to stay creative, keep innovating, and brave some form of experimentation.

Web-based Interactive

Interactive Interview

Artifact Virtualisation

Virtual Tour

Social Media Live Event


The Uffizi, Florence

Recently, there is a trending wave of Tik Tok within the museum community such as: New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Pittsburg’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. However, the spotlight was on Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, when a few weeks ago they posted a video to its TikTok account featuring Botticelli’s “Spring.” The bold move to poke fun at its collection of masterpieces was part of the museum’s strategic positioning to attract Italian youth – and they succeeded.

Gamification can be quite an effective method, not only for children, but adults too. Many adults still retain their playful or competitive habits, and gamification is indeed still one of the most engaging methods to facilitate an audience to learn about serious subject matters in a fun way.

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and Mixed reality (MX) has fundamentally transformed a passive experience of art into an active one. These options can be relatively costly due to the resource-heavy content creation and high-end spec requirement for the devices (also, hygiene concern for shared devices), however, when the content engagements are done well, they would create richer sensorial depths beyond the physical, opening up the learning journey to rely on more immersive storytelling for the audience. 

Immersive Learning Experience, EXD Lab.

Photograph by:Adrian Deweert

3D Scanned Artefact Interactive, EXD Lab.

Learn more about our digitalisation service

The way forward

Digital first – digitalising gallery experience is not merely a response to the current pandemic situation. This solution is now urgently pushing boundaries to remedy current restrictive situations for artists and institutions alike. Digital has become the new normal in accessing information. Digital is a mindset, not just a tool any longer.

Possibilities to leverage scalable digital touch points are too valuable to go ignored. With the current and upcoming natively digital generations, digital is an inseparable component of experiential learning.

With new supporting technologies, shifting trends, and plenty of unknown new challenges ahead, digital thinking is the growth mindset needed to deepen our connections, education, and understanding despite distance.

Whats's Next?

Here at EXD Lab, we are excited about experimenting and developing innovative ways to expand the spectrum of possibilities to develop meaningful storytelling, preservation and amplification of the gallery experience.

Let’s have a meaningful discussion for collaborative opportunities; together, we can create impactful and meaningful portraits of an amalgamated online and offline world.

Photograph by:Liza Rusalskaya,  Graphic by: EXD

EXD Lab Pte Ltd © 2020

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