European Masterpieces digitally enhanced


An exhibition of 65 artworks representing the achievements of the greatest painters in the Western tradition from one of the world’s leading art museums is undoubtedly a drawcard. Add to this The Studio — a QAGOMA initiative developed with QUT’s Dr Kate Thompson (Associate Professor of Digital Pedagogies in the Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice Faculty) and the VISER team — and you have an inspired twenty‑first‑century exhibition experience that both honours the past and celebrates the capabilities of new technologies, writes Tonya Turner.

LIST OF WORKS: Discover the artworks

THE STUDIO: Artworks come to life

DELVE DEEPER: Read more about the exhibition

WATCH: The Met Curators highlight their favourite works

Between the two main exhibition spaces of ‘European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’ at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), The Studio includes multimedia interactives, drawing materials, clever animations based on selected works in the show, still-life displays, live artwork re-creations by costumed models, and live music performances by musicians from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. Within this space, visitors also have the opportunity to learn about the artists whose works feature in the exhibition via a major digital interactive presented on large touchscreens, developed by Queensland University of Technology’s Visualisation and Interactive Solutions for Engagement and Research (VISER) team in collaboration with Dr Kate Thompson and supported by QAGOMA staff.

(left) Costumed model recreates the scene from Marie Joséphine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes (died 1868) / (right) Marie Denise Villers, France 1774–1821 / Marie Joséphine Charlotte du Val d’Ognes (died 1868) 1801 / Oil on canvas / 161.3 x 128.6cm / Mr and Mrs Isaac D Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D Fletcher, 1917 / 17.120.204 / Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Paris Opera is activated daily in ‘European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Photograph: B Wagner © QAGOMA

The Studio in ‘European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Photographs: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

QAGOMA’s Head of Learning, Terry Deen, says the Gallery worked with the QUT VISER team to develop an engaging user experience for visitors, incorporating portraits of the artists (where available), dot points of information about their life and relationships, an animated, interactive map of the exhibition that visualises the connections between the artists in the exhibition, and images of the artist’s work.

The multidisciplinary QUT VISER team combines the talents of programmers, 3D modellers, digital artists, designers and technology specialists. VISER Manager, Gavin Winter, describes recent projects including the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre in New South Wales, QUT’s The Cube and The Sphere, the Edmonton Public Library in Canada and more. Dr Thompson says the artist wall interactive in The Studio is innovative in that it explicitly connects information about the artist with an interactive map, within which visitors can see a painting’s location, investigate artists’ influences and influence, and visually connect related paintings in the gallery space. And, she adds, visitors undertake these activities ‘in an environment designed to immerse them in the sounds, practices and colours of the time in which the art was created’.

Visitor to ‘European Masterpieces’ explores The Studio, with interactives developed by QAGOMA in partnership with QUT

Initial discussions between the Gallery and QUT VISER team began in 2020. Soon, QAGOMA invited Dr Thompson and the VISER team to contribute not only to the ‘European Masterpieces’ exhibition with the artist wall interactive, but also in the form of a research partnership. ‘On one level,’ Deen notes, ‘the artist wall interactive is a project that has presented tremendous opportunity to explore new ways of presenting educational information to audiences’.

At a deeper level, sitting beyond this distinct project, we are establishing a strategy through which to evaluate the effectiveness of our digital interactives in terms of digital pedagogy. Galleries and museums invest considerable resources into providing engaging digital experiences without having the ability to study the user experience.

For Thompson, discovering how people learn about art and artists is one of the most significant parts of the project:

The creation of something that can support research and is beautiful enough to be in an exhibition in an art gallery with paintings that are hundreds of years old is the part of this project that makes me smile the most.

Tonya Turner is a freelance journalist. She spoke with Terry Deen, Kate Thompson and Gavin Winter in June 2021.

This Australian-exclusive exhibition was at the Gallery of Modern Art from 12 June until 17 October 2021 and organised by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in collaboration with the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art and Art Exhibitions Australia.

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