Get Ready for the Flood of 3D Printed Objects

Left, Micah Ganske’s “Mining Habitat” (2012) at Miami Projects and, right, Tom Burtonwood’s limited edition “Rmutt” PEZ dispenser at Fountain Art Fair. (all images by the author for Hyperallergic)

I have a prediction. In the next few years, the art world will be awash in 3D printed objects. I noticed a number this year at the Miami art fairs but they were certainly limited in quantity. There is nothing particularly new about 3D printed objects but their use as “art” that can be sold in the marketplace is something that is not fully established in the field.

Earlier this year I spotted Alfred Steiner’s “Erased Schulnik (Diptych)” (2010), which had already suggested to me that the 3D revolution was upon us, so what I saw in Miami was only further proof that the inevitable flood of printed objects was near.

Tom Burtonwood’s small PEZ dispenser was on display at Front Room Gallery at Fountain Art Fair. A small joke on Marcel Duchamp’s infamous “Fountain” object (not to mention a wink at the art fair itself), the head of the candy dispenser was a well-articulated 3D printed object. If it wasn’t for the small groves on the edges — something most 3D printers haven’t been able to hide — I would’ve never known the urinal was printed and not molded or made using some other process.

But then I saw Micah Ganske’s “Mining Habitat” (2012) at RH Gallery and I was certainly impressed. Using his Makerbot Replicator, Gansky assembled roughly 1,000 different parts and used over 700 hours of print time to create this detailed object on display at the Miami Project art fair. The medium and idea were well-suited for one another. Sci-fi space visions of an industrialized future spit out of a machine seemed like a good fit. It was detailed, textured, and if someone didn’t tell me it was printed, then I doubt I would’ve ever really known.

One of the biggest costs for galleries traveling to Miami — or any art fair — is shipping. The idea that you could conjure up an object without having to ship it (perhaps even melt it down or shred it if it doesn’t sell) sounds like an attractive prospect.

Related: “Digital sculpture as printable graffiti” (Vandalog)

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