Virtual Reality Lets Rare Works of Art Take a Field Trip

Virtual Reality Lets Rare Works of Art Take a Field Trip


Although the couple has been sharing their art collection for decades through exhibitions, museum loans and other means, this is the first time they don’t have to worry about travel wear and tear.

“That’s the beauty of this type of museum,” Mr. Kremer said. “You never have to think about security, insurance or transport fees or any of that. No plumbing or building codes.”

The Kremers, who live in Dubai and have homes in Dallas and Amsterdam, have been collecting art since 1994, when Mr. Kremer bought a drawing by Govert Flinck, one of Rembrandt’s most successful pupils, from the Amsterdam gallery Salomon Lilian.

Photo


Matthias Stom’s “Christ Chasing the Moneychangers From Temple,” 1630-1633, as seen in virtual reality.

Credit
The Kremer Collection

His wife did not like his initial purchase, but together they began to collect under the guidance of one of the Netherlands’ leading old master dealers, Robert Noortman, and accumulated one of the world’s most respected troves of Dutch and Flemish masters in private hands. Their collection now includes paintings by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Lievens, along with Impressionist works.

The idea for a virtual-reality museum came from their son Joël, who had worked in the United States for Google. Joël eventually became the director of the museum and spearheaded the project.

Each painting in the collection was photographed about 3,000 times and then merged into a 3-D image using photogrammetry, or measurements of surface points. Visitors to the museum can therefore look not only at the front of a picture, but also walk around and see labels and other markings on the back.

Glitches still need to be worked out. The image resolution still appears to be inadequate to create a sufficiently high-resolution reproduction. And the subject matter doesn’t help: 17th-century Dutch painting, especially the domestic genre scenes favored by the Kremers, was very detail-oriented; beauty can be found in the flicker of light on a woman’s silk gown, or light glancing off a pearl, or the exquisitely meticulous fringe on a tablecloth.

Joël Kremer acknowledged that the pixelation isn’t adequate right now, but said the issue was being worked on and that it seemed likely that this would be fixed as the technology inevitably improved.

The Kremers have made what they will only describe as “a significant investment” of money to develop the museum. George Kremer is quick to note, however, that, “Building this is a fraction of what a physical building would cost.” To achieve the same ethereal setting, he added, “You’d then have to shoot it into space, and that would be a costly affair.”



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