ArtLab: Our new technology and research division

9 April 2020

Unveiling HWVR, a first in virtual reality exhibition modeling, and residency program for artists based in Los Angeles

Our new research and innovation arm ArtLab explores projects at the intersection of art and technology. ArtLab was formed to create bespoke technology solutions for the most pressing issues in the art world, including greater accessibility and sustainability.

Our first ArtLab initiative will be a new Virtual Reality (VR) exhibition modeling tool called HWVR. The gallery will open its first entirely VR-based exhibition on 30 April 2020. Taking place on the site of our future gallery, Hauser & Wirth Menorca, this exhibition will allow visitors a coveted online preview of the art center in Spain ahead of its opening in 2021. Our Menorca location is being restored by the Paris-based, Argentinean architect Luis Laplace, a long-standing collaborator of the gallery. As part of our #artforbetter initiative, ten percent of gross profit from sale of works in the first HWVR exhibition will be donated to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund of the World Health Organization.

ArtLab—Hauser & Wirth Menorca exterior view created in HWVR

ArtLab began with intensive research in Summer 2019, focused upon practical steps toward responsibly reducing the gallery’s carbon footprint associated with mounting exhibitions globally. Simultaneously, the ArtLab team began exploring innovations that will allow audiences to fully experience exhibitions in different local contexts without traveling—a project that takes on greater meaning and urgency amid the COVID-19 pandemic—while permitting artists, curators, and exhibition coordinators to better prepare shows using new technology. ArtLab will host a digital residency program at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles for artists and their teams by invitation to enable them to connect with, and to explore, the full potential of the new technology. Our global ArtLab team combines existing gallery staff with new expert team members, and consultants based in London, New York, and Los Angeles. HWVR is a first in the art world because it uses a bespoke technology-stack, not found in any other single industry. Drawing from techniques applied in architecture, construction and video-game authorship, the tool creates true-to-life scale and accuracy, as well as the authentic look, feel, and interactivity of our galleries. HWVR builds the virtual 3D space from the ground up at a pixel level, rather than relying on combined photos, which gives an unprecedented level of flexibility. ArtLab has also developed software to convert the gallery’s database of artworks into 3D assets.

ArtLab—Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles interior view created in HWVR with Jack Whitten’s ‘Asa’s Palace’ (1973) and Louise Bourgeois's ‘Crouching Spider’ (2003) © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY / Jack Whitten Estate

‘Many of the best innovations are driven by necessity,’ says Iwan Wirth. ‘When we created ArtLab and first began developing the HWVR art experience, our primary goal was to develop technology that would help our artists visualize the spaces where their exhibitions would be presented. We were equally motivated by a desire to plan exhibitions for our locations around the globe in a way that would reduce the amount of travel and transportation. Given the current situation, with so many in essential self-isolation, we are accelerating the launch of ArtLab’s programs with a new approach to virtual reality exhibitions that can engage as many people as possible and bring them together while we’re all apart.’ – ‘Beside Itself’, our first exhibition in HWVR, will open on 30 April 2020 and can be experienced via the gallery’s website with computer, smartphone or VR headset such as google cardboard. Under the umbrella of our new global philanthropic and charitable initiative #artforbetter, we are donating 10% of gross profits from sales of all works in our online exhibitions to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization.