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Navigate an Art Gallery Like a Video Game

by Jillian Steinhauer on August 22, 2014

Gallery404 (all screenshots by the author via gallery.art404.com)

Gallery404 (all screenshots by the author via gallery.art404.com)

It’s not every day that you get to climb all over iconic works for art — unless you’re an unsupervised child — but a new online gallery lets you jump on the Koons and the Warhol. The creation of artist duo Art404, Gallery404 is, according to its website, “an open source browser-based 3D art gallery platform.” Using a set of keyboard keys to move, plus the spacebar to jump and the mouse to look around, you can navigate the virtual gallery like a video game.

Close up on Barbara Kruger (click to enlarge)

Close up on Barbara Kruger (click to enlarge)

The show currently on view is called The Classics, and it features digital 3D re-creations of “classic” works by Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, and Constantin Brancusi. A bit of a random mix, but surveying the scene once you’re inside, it seems as though the Art404 duo wanted both recognizable objects (Warhol’s Brillo boxes, a Koons balloon dog, a Bourgeois spider) and ones that are different enough to come together in a visually interesting way (text from Kruger, pure shape from Brancusi). Their diversity also lets you interact with them differently: whereas I was able to make my way up the floating Brillo boxes, jumping from one to the next as if I were playing Super Mario Brothers, I could only walk under, and gaze up at, the spider. I somehow managed to jump onto Brancusi’s “Endless Column” and ended up staring at two-shaded yellow void, a trapezoid of thick colors. It was only virtual, but I was totally disoriented.

Brancusi, somehow

Brancusi, somehow

Of course, getting that close to digital versions of famous artworks won’t tell you anything about their texture. But there are some nice touches: the surface of the Koons is still reflective, so even though you can’t take your selfie in it, you can see a vision of a mysterious mansion floating upside-down. As with the Brancusi, jumping onto the Koons sculpture put me at angles and facing views that would otherwise be impossible. These seemed to somehow drive home the formality of this “classic” art, the way it’s all just shapes and colors, giving it an unexpected affinity with so much objectless art made expressly for the internet.

Koons reflection

Koons reflection

And Gallery404 is very much of the internet: most of the objects float (as do the wall labels), a couple of them shifting constantly, and the space itself is an open, oddly ethereal terrain that suggests what it might look like to walk on and through clouds. The background is white, like so many gallery walls, but it doesn’t box you in; rather, it seems to stretch on forever. And if you enter it, it basically does: just more white space as you move forward into perpetual white. Who knows, maybe there’s another gallery a cloud jump away.

On the floating Brillo boxes

Up among the floating Brillo boxes

h/t @casspack

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