VR Exhibition Opens UBS Corporate Collection of Blue-Chip Art to the Public

VR Exhibition Opens UBS Corporate Collection of Blue-Chip Art to the Public

What is extended reality (XR) and how is it employed in the arts? We bring together an international panel of specialists in the area to analyze and make sense of the cutting-edge digital work being produced by artists, museums, galleries, and app developers throughout the XR spectrum—from augmented to virtual reality.

Each XR evaluation begins with a summary of the project and a statement from the makers, followed by a rating by our expert panel based on ease of use, quality of art, medium-specific attributes, and whether it breaks new ground.

The Art of One’s Own Era

The Art of One’s Own Era, a virtual recreation of the UBS branch at 1285 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, was presented in VR on the Artland platform, featuring works from UBS’s corporate collection—works that came with the Swiss bank’s acquisition of the US investment bank and brokerage PaineWebber in 2000. (formerly the PaineWebber building).

The exhibition includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Alex Katz, Cindy Sherman, Susan Rothenberg, and Edward Weston, among others.

In August 2020, Artland’s VRoom technology and product debuted the platform established with Untitled Art Fair in the virtual fair. In the last ten months, the platform has gained several new features.

Where To Find It

The Art of One’s Own Era show features key works from PaineWebber’s art collection. The collection was built by Donald B. Marron [chairman of PaineWebber], a singular figure in the corporate art world during the 1980s and 1990s, and is now part of the UBS Art Collection.

The guiding objective of the UBS Art Collection is to cooperate with and collect work by the most important artists of our time. From 1960 to 2000, the pieces from the former PaineWebber Collection serve as a time capsule, exposing artists’ “who’s who” in the downtown New York art scene.

We virtually reconstructed our UBS Art Gallery to present the works, which we had opened in 2019 to make more pieces from our collection available to the public but had to close because of the epidemic. The former PaineWebber building at 1285 Avenue of the Americas has historical significance.

The UBS Art Collection aspires to collect art that inspires, stimulates debate, and offers fresh perspectives on global concerns. The collection has evolved to include artists from all around the world, renowned artists from the last half-century, and new acquisitions by up-and-coming artists.

Curator’s Note

While the art world has become preoccupied with handling digitally native works, we on the XR Panel have been focusing on physical art objects and how virtual and augmented technologies may be used to improve access to and understanding of culture.

Past hype cycles, oversimplified claims of accessibility, the confusion of artistic medium with distribution platform, and the prioritization of commerce over a culture that we’ve seen with XR can also provide insight into the current NFT craze we believe.

We see XR as a technology and a medium with a more mature relationship to the art world, but one that is grappling with the same issues. “How do we nurture and optimise technical development for culture rather than just commerce?” this panel has been thinking.

The small art fair has been one of XR’s most successful applications, which has a good environmental impact on travel and shipping. In August 2020, we visited one such art fair, and this review is an updated look at the Artland platform.

Underneath the subject of technology’s cultural use and evolution is an even older problem that both XR and NFT are grappling with: how to incorporate art financing.

As a result, we’ve chosen UBS’s virtual presentation of its corporate collection as the subject of our upcoming study. We see all of the tensions of public access against funding cultural development and preservation in this XR experience: a private collection on privately controlled platforms, virtually open to the public.

We’re also intrigued by the show because UBS went to each of the 35 artists or their estates to obtain permission for the virtual exhibition. It’s unclear whether this method of obtaining authorization will become the norm. I’ve always championed all forms of digitization as an artistic endeavor. 

However, I’m not convinced that including an owned, rather than augmented, piece in a VR display should necessitate such a procedure. As artists and collectors, should we establish a standard for all living artists? What are our options for Van Gogh?

I just got the chance to collaborate with Artland’s team on converting my current IRL display at Annka Kultys Gallery into virtual reality. It entails the building of a custom environment that resembles the new Hackney gallery space, complete with hip east London “scenery” outside the window!

It’s worth emphasizing that Artland’s VR methodology facilitates platform/artist collaboration. While Artland and many other VR systems may be used in a plug-and-play fashion, their real worth lies in the medium-specific problem solving between artists and technologists.

Working closely with Artland’s Nicholas Robinson to produce my exhibition, I discovered that technical decisions had curatorial consequences, and curatorial decisions had technical consequences. And it’s preferable to have a partner, not simply a product, for this.

Alongside virtual reality, another technology is also on the rise, known by the name of NFT. Recently some NFT pieces have been sold for several million dollars. Visit this blog post to learn more about the most expensive NFTs sold.

Stephanie Christie
Managing Director Stephanie has worked with tech giants prior accepting her present post in Technology In The Arts. She now spearheads the team alongside Larry.