Augmented reality has allowed anyone to design a cultural experience, transforming how people traditionally experience art, impacting museums specifically.

Museums are primarily incorporating AR into collections through apps such as Cuseum, Google’s Tango, or Snapchat lenses, letting visitors superimpose their face onto a painting. Mixed reality experiences and activities provide visitors with more information and interaction without taking up space in the location, attracting those who may find the museum experience dull.

Despite this engaging experience, questions have been raised in regards to unauthorized activations. Recently, a group of artists that call themselves MoMAR, transformed the Jackson Pollock gallery at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) through AR, using an AR app to showcase their own works. Guests can use the app to view the Pollock paintings on the wall with digital add-ons or alterations by other artists, but this app is not owned by or affiliated with MoMA itself. Although this is legal, it raises the question of “virtual trespassing”.

“Museums are obviously striving for relevance, because the world is increasingly splintered and competing at offerings, and a static object finds itself competing for our attention more and more,” says Maxwell Anderson, an art historian and former director at the Whitney, Dallas Art Museum, and other institutions.

Many exhibitions now rely on interactivity and “Instagram-ability” to draw crowds and ticket sales—and AR is the perfect tool for engagement. Anderson suggests that this quest for relevance is leading museums to both adopt and be co-opted by AR – even if it means unauthorized AR intrusions such as MoMAR.

 

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