Digital renaissance of a masterpiece
© HTC Vive Arts and Emissive
September 2019

Digital renaissance of a masterpiece

By Björn Carstens
Art fuses with artificial worlds. Apps and Virtual Reality (VR) headsets enable visitors to delve into classic paintings and dead artists are brought to life by means of artificial intelligence (AI).

Century-old events merge with the here and now into a big picture. Art lovers travel into the past with consummate ease. In October, they’ll be able to enjoy an exceptionally futuristic VR experience in the venerable Louvre in Paris: “Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass” is the name of the project that allows the audience to get as close to the world’s most famous smile as never before. Visitors, or, perhaps more precisely, users interact with the painting in a virtual room. HTC Vive VR headsets provide them with an unusual view of da Vinci’s “La Gioconda.”

​​Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible

Paul Klee

By means of a magnifier, users can recognize the various techniques and coats of paint applied by the master. Owners of such a headset can access this special Mona Lisa experience from anywhere in the world. A similar experience awaits art lovers when using the “Rembrandt Reality App” to travel back into the year of 1632 and enter “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.” By means of an Augmented Reality projection they suddenly find themselves standing in the same room as the doctors: virtual experiences that will more than likely soon become standard in the museums of the future.

Milestones of AI in the world of art
  • 2004
    Hearing a traffic light: The color-blind Cyborg artist Neil Harbisson has a color antenna implanted in his brain that recognizes the wavelength of light. When a traffic light is red Harbisson hears the musical note A.
  • 2017
    VR journey into the Middle Ages: the “Historium VR” app takes art historians on a quasi-live journey back into the dark days of the Belgian city of Bruges.
  • 2018
    AI prints art: A French group of artists has programmed two algorithms that complement each other. One of them paints pictures based on known portraits and the other one corrects them if it assumes them to be the work of a machine, which continually improves the work of the former. The work of the “artist pairing” signed “min G max D Ex[log(D(x))] Ez[log(1-D(G(z)))]” is the first-ever AI painting to have been auctioned at Christie’s – for about 380,000 euros.
  • 2019
    Dalí’s face: An AI in a museum in Florida fuses the facial expressions of an actor with Salvador Dalí’s face. Almost more surreal than Dalí’s works.
  • 2019
    Algorithms in a studio: Ai-Da – a humanoid robot artist created by Engineered Arts – paints what she sees with her camera eyes. The reward for her efforts: her first exhibition this summer.