Art Exhibitions During Coronavirus: A Virtual Reality

Art Installation Runko by Eliisa Loukola

Graduating Fine Art students from the Academy Minerva in Groningen have been forced to make their exhibition a digital experience due to coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands. 

The Green Lights 2021 exhibition opened digitally on 31 January, on an online platform created by the artists in collaboration with a team of design students. 

“We were very much in the hopes of having a physical exhibition, but from the get go we were preparing for the possibility of not being able to have one,” said Eliisa Loukola, one of the students in the graduating class of 2021.

Galleries and exhibition spaces in the Netherlands have been closed to the public since 19 November 2020. Ordinarily, the Green Lights exhibition would be hosted in the city of Groningen and would be open to the public, but this year it is only the students and their teachers who will be able to visit the physical exhibition space. Virtual tours of the exhibition and the supporting performances and workshops are all being held online. 

“Building it up gave us a rare possibility in these times to see our works in an exhibition and go through the process of curating a show,” said Loukola, although unfortunately it will only be made available to virtual visitors through an online walkthrough

Restrictions due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have impacted arts and cultural industries across the globe, with galleries and museums closed in many countries for several months. Several prominent cultural institutions, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s Tate Modern, created virtual walking tours of their exhibits, to provide patrons with the ability to explore art in the comfort and safety of their homes.

“It is very hard to recreate the specific atmosphere of an exhibition at home,” says Celine Burke, a student in Groningen who enjoys attending physical art exhibitions, but the ability to access these virtual exhibitions can also “lower the threshold for attending an event.” 

As countries across Europe and further afield continue to grapple with the second wave of the coronavirus, virtual museum and gallery tours are becoming an increasingly pivotal part of the cultural landscape. 

“Now that physical spaces are no longer the priority, the cultural sector is rushing to adapt events, exhibitions and experiences for an entirely digital-first audience,” said digital strategist JiaJia Fei in a 2020 interview with The Guardian. 

The Green Lights 2021 exhibition continues online until the 6 February.

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