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Vortic. Digitally expanding the art world, one gallery at a time
In this conversation, Oliver Miro and Igal Nassima walk us through Vortic, a virtual reality project that is changing the way we display, observe and interact with art.

Vortic is a sustainable digital exhibition ecosystem for the art world, specifically designed for galleries, institutions and collectors. They enable an easy and accessible solution in the curation and sharing of exceptional art viewing experiences. By harnessing revolutionary 3D, AR and VR technology, Vortic creates new ways to be and interact with art—an immersive experience that brings exhibitions and artworks to people, wherever they may be.

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KOOZ Oliver, you launched Vortic—a virtual reality ecosystem for galleries, institutions and collectors—during the pandemic. Nonetheless, the project stemmed from a desire to offer galleries the possibility of showing their work across cities at a lower carbon footprint. Can you briefly explain the foundations of the project and its main scope?

OLIVER MIROThe idea to found Vortic arose in 2016. My first child was born in 2013, so I had been thinking about the world I was bringing her into. After many years working in a major international gallery, I realised the traditional gallery model was becoming more and more damaging to the world we live in. As the fair model expanded, the shipments we were doing as a gallery increased exponentially. Furthermore, I quickly realised there was no digital way to put an artwork in front of a collector so they could really understand a work without us shipping it around the world for just one person to view. It is crazy to think that, despite how advanced technology was at the time, such a tool did not exist, at least not to an extent that I felt comfortable using it for the artists we represent. I started to think about ways I could transition the gallery to a more sustainable model.

I realised the traditional gallery model was becoming more and more damaging to the world we live in.

Vortic aims to meet the challenges of the ever changing art world, expanding exhibition spaces beyond their physical presence, offering the highest quality digital viewing experience available, reducing the carbon footprint associated with installing exhibitions and shipping artworks and allowing anyone to experience the works we exhibit.

We are committed to contributing to a more environmentally responsible art world, by providing effective solutions that enable our partners to manage their carbon emissions without compromising the quality of their programmes. Through Vortic, costs associated to shipping and handling artworks, and to exhibition logistics, for instance, are significantly reduced.

Vortic is an effective solution to all of these practical and environmental problems and more—we allow artworks to be digitally presented and experienced in the best way possible, breaking down barriers often associated with access to the art world.

We are currently working on a report with sustainability advisors that specialise in the art world which will detail the positive impact that utilising Vortic can have for galleries, art fairs, institutions and collectors alike, and I am looking forward to sharing that publicly.

We allow artworks to be digitally presented and experienced in the best way possible, breaking down barriers often associated with access to the art world.

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KOOZ The project is a commercial endeavour at the service of art galleries and art fairs but also an educational venture which addresses notions/problematics of accessibility and sustainability inherent to the art world. Could you expand on Vortic’s identity in between these two realms? How do you operate in between projects like Frieze Viewing Room and your collaboration with The Wallace Collection?

OM When Vortic was first created, our aim was to predominantly work with galleries to represent their artists—digitally—in the best possible way. It wasn’t long before museums started approaching us because of the incredible quality of the digital viewing experiences our platform could offer.

We did not envisage working with museums so soon, but getting interest from all parts of the art world ecosystem made us realise that our software is so incredibly flexible that it can accommodate a range of different needs.

Since our inception, we have been constantly collating feedback from our partners, and this has enabled us to respond to the challenges they were facing. Our focus is ensuring that Vortic can deliver bespoke solutions to all our partners, especially as audience behaviours and expectations continue to evolve.

Our software is so incredibly flexible that it can accommodate a range of different needs.

Since 2020, we have partnered with important institutions across the world, such as the Wallace Collection, which you mentioned, but also with The Courtauld Gallery, the Barbican, CAC Málaga, the Tate and Centro Cultural São Paulo, just to name a few.

Institutions have seen an increased need for digital presences that complement, strengthen and expand their physical ones. Providing their audiences with the best quality digital experiences that do justice to exceptional artworks is a technical challenge and one that Vortic was created to solve.

There are many ways in which Vortic can be employed by institutions: we can help them remove access barriers for new audiences by allowing visitors to access information on exhibits in their own time and from anywhere; engage with audiences and scholars to revisit past, current and future exhibitions, allowing their education departments to create accessible and shareable digital learning experiences open to everyone; reach a wider international audience by contextualising works with audio tours and descriptions. In addition to this, Vortic allows institutions to create a living archive of their exhibitions and projects. The digital exhibitions we realise can be re-rendered at any time allowing their quality to constantly improve—as our technology is evolving—making the product infinitely scalable.

On the other hand, a partnership like the one with Frieze allows us to demonstrate how Vortic can be employed by galleries to attend fairs more sustainably (presenting additional inventory through a bespoke Vortic 3D and VR presentation, for instance, and reducing the emissions caused by additional shipping and handling) and engage with collectors and audiences that may not be able to travel to the fair. In addition to this, working with art fairs as a digital partner has enabled us to present how their future may look like—we’re effectively presenting a best practice example of how they could progressively reduce their emissions towards their future environmental goals, by embracing a hybrid model in which physical exhibitions are seamlessly integrated with digital ones.

KOOZ For their exhibitions, galleries can both decide to have their physical space scanned through photogrammetry or use one of the generic virtual gallery spaces provided by the Vortic platform. Generally resembling white cubes, how do these virtual replicas challenge or reinforce art critic Brian O’Doherty’s idea of the white cube as a uniformly hermetic room with four white walls and a stable function and meaning?

IGAL NASSIMA When I think of the white cube, I think of the abstraction of a concept. Similarly, the spaces we create through Vortic can be seen as abstractions of spaces, whether these are indeed “white cubes” or replicas of other typologies. Through virtual reality we are interested in both working with the idea of hermetic rooms as well as testing the utilitarian limits of these environments and immersing ourselves in the creation of a new language with its unique parameters. Rather than being defined by four white walls with a stable function and meaning, we enjoy playing with the scalable nature of these sites, where several exhibitions can be staged simultaneously, where people from across the world can tune in and tune out at their pleasing and spaces can be continuously transformed.

Vortic is a site for experimentation where galleries, museums and other cultural actors can test diverse curatorial processes leveraging varied architectural approaches and designs.

In this sense, Vortic is a site for experimentation where galleries, museums and other cultural actors can test diverse curatorial processes leveraging varied architectural approaches and designs. We are keen to challenge the relationship between artwork, viewer, and setting. Nonetheless, we have discovered that individuals are generally very resistant in moving away from the stereotypical relationship one is accustomed to have with a work of art within the physical dimension. We realised that we need to be extremely mindful of how we bring people into these virtual counterparts as they can easily create friction points for certain users. This has led us to slowly design a multitude of different contexts, but which generally need to start from a very faithful replica of a physical setting and revolve around moments of intimacy.

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I think an important challenge for architects, operating within virtual spaces as those designed by Vortic, is how to establish a level of intimacy which will enable the viewer to feel comfortable within this new digital reality.

KOOZ In the contemporary art world, where the timeless white room exists as a global franchise, how can a project like Vortic and exhibitions such as Open, by Doug Aitken, challenge this categorically fixed, private non-place? What is the potential of engaging architecturally trained individuals in the designing of these spaces?

IN Building upon my last answer, I think an important challenge for architects, operating within virtual spaces as those designed by Vortic, is how to establish a level of intimacy which will enable the viewer to feel comfortable within this new digital reality. Whilst this can of course be achieved through the recreation of seemingly domestic and physical environments which act as viewing rooms, how does this apply to the bigger picture? What architectural elements do we need to work with? What kind of experiences and materiality do we need to design / implement?

I believe these spaces offer great opportunities to the artists themselves, as they can curate and design exactly how they wish for their works to be exhibited across timescales and geographies. This was indeed the case with DougAitken's exhibition, whereby the studio, which is very much engaged in spatial design, collaborated with us very closely to develop a unique environment which redefined the very idea of site specificity. With Vortic, we aim to invite the artists in and carve out a space for themselves, where they can truly experiment with the qualities of a space beyond the white wall canon.

With Vortic, we aim to invite the artists in and carve out a space for themselves.

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KOOZ Beyond the VR service you offer to galleries, you recently launched Vortic Curated, a project which encourages a symbiotic collaboration between curators, artists and Vortic’s digital platform to create an exceptional programme of exhibitions and projects. How does Vortic Curated explore and expand the practice of exhibition making?

OM Vortic Curated encourages exciting dialogues between different practices, resulting in a diverse programme of exhibitions within Vortic’s ecosystem, to cultivate an engaging and interactive community. For each iteration of the project, guest curators and artists are invited to utilise the capabilities of Vortic’s dynamic XR technology to realise exhibitions conceived especially for the digital space, with the hope of opening up new opportunities to artists for visibility and collaboration.

Since its inception in November 2022, Vortic Curated has presented four outstanding exhibitions: Fever Dream, a group show curated by Daria Borisova, Toil Stories, a solo presentation of works by Tim Stoner, curated by Louis Blanc-Francard, group show, What Lies Beneathcurated by Direlia Lazo, and"baby hair & afros", curated by Alayo Akinkugbe.

We have exciting Curated exhibitions lined up for 2023, which include partnerships with and loans from major institutions. After spending many years building the platform, I am pleased to see how people use the software—Curated is one way which effectively empowers curators to conceive outstanding exhibitions that they may never be able to realise in a physical space.

I am very proud of what we have achieved with Vortic Curated so far and of the engaged community of collectors and art lovers that we have built around it.

Vortic has an enormous potential in overcoming a set of problems which are at the core of the art industry.

KOOZ How do you envision Vortic evolving as the resolution of our technology gets better and better?

IN As a technology company, I believe Vortic has an enormous potential in overcoming a set of problems which are at the core of the art industry, whether these are tied to issues of access, scale and / or economic and environmental sustainability. As VR technology becomes more ubiquitous and institutions start developing cultural programs that are digitally driven, I am very much interested in the radical projects that this synergy can unlock in terms of creativity.

KOOZ How do you envision the project’s future expansion? What can we expect as VR technology gets better and better?

OM The aspect that initially drew me to VR technology is how it works with your mind. VR viewing experiences create memories of being in a space—arguably the first technology to do so.

Being able to experience art through VR opens up incredible opportunities to build an engaged community around it and, as the adoption of VR headsets becomes more and more widespread, I see Vortic becoming a hub that the artworld ecosystem goes to to share ideas and view the best exhibitions available.

The social aspect of VR, which Vortic has invested a lot in, and being able to connect with other people in real time through avatars creates additional opportunities for dialogue.

I also envisage VR becoming an essential tool to realise important educational projects for schools, empowering institutions, teachers and students to access and share culture more easily.

Bio

Oliver Miro is co-Founder of Vortic, an art led platform that aims to create a connected, collaborative conversation around immersive 3D, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) exhibitions from the world’s leading galleries and institutions. The impetus behind the founding of Vortic was a moment where, after more than a decade spent in the sales team of a leading international gallery, Oliver Miro became acutely conscious that the art world lacked a truly high quality way of presenting artworks digitally that would be engaging enough to captivate collectors, inspire artists, and help move galleries and institutions towards a more sustainable future.

Igal Nassima is an artist and programmer from Istanbul, Turkey. He is the founder of Superbright, an award winning technology studio specializing in AR, VR, and Physical Computing experiences that are as thought-provoking as they are practical. His work focuses on making emerging technologies accessible to creative communities. Before Superbright, Igal has worked at numerous technology companies in roles such as lead creative technologist at Google, hacker in residence at Betaworks. Igal has recently co-founded and architected the Vortic XR platform which features world class exhibitions from top galleries and museums around the world and leads the product team as the head of engineering. Igal’s works have premiered around the world including the Venice Biennale, MoMA, Tribeca Festival, Sundance, and SXSW (winning the first ever Jury Selection for Future of experiences). He is an adjunct professor at NYU Tisch ITP, where he teaches Social Immersive Technology.

Federica Zambeletti is the founder and managing director of KoozArch. She is an architect, researcher and digital curator whose interests lie at the intersection between art, architecture and regenerative practices. In 2015 Federica founded KoozArch with the ambition of creating a space where to research, explore and discuss architecture beyond the limits of its built form. Parallel to her work at KoozArch, Federica is Architect at the architecture studio UNA and researcher at the non-profit agency for change UNLESS where she is project manager of the research "Antarctic Resolution". Federica is an Architectural Association School of Architecture in London alumni.

Published
17 Feb 2023
Reading time
12 minutes
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