17 August 2020

    Craig Wilson

    Acute Art brings augmented reality art into your home

    We can’t go to art galleries to see the work of world-renowned artists, but we can bring some of their work — and the joy they elicit — into our homes.

    You may have seen Google’s new augmented reality (AR) animals feature doing the rounds. If you search for animals on Google using a smartphone, you now have the option to view them in AR. Search ‘tiger’ for instance, and with a couple of taps you can use the combination of your smartphone’s camera and screen to make a big cat appear in your kitchen, living room, or anywhere else you like. Acute Art uses the same concept, but instead of animals, it lets you see artworks – and interact with them – wherever you are.

    Open the app and you’re greeted with a list of artists. Artists have gradually been added to the line-up since it launched in March 2020, some of whom have added works to their initial offerings. This suggests there are still more to come, and that the app isn’t some fly-by-night that’s going to vanish unexpectedly.

    The latest addition to the roster is Darren Bader, the playful, conceptual art provocateur who’s best known for works that interrogate art and the art scene, like the time he used crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise money, which he then sold at auction, with the proceeds eventually donated to charity. In Acute Art, the works on offer include ‘The Groom’, a set of nail clippers on wheels called that roam about the virtual space they’re placed in, and ‘Charge (Dev)’, a dancing figure from the artist’s Mende Mundi show.

    Adjustable for your environment

    You can adjust positioning, lighting, and other variables of many of the works, and then take still or videos of them. Some respond to interaction, which means you’ll either need to use your phone’s front-facing camera and a tripod or similar device so you can control the framing, or – far easier – rope in a friend or family member to help.

    One of the interactive artworks, for instance, is a storm cloud from Olafur Eliasson that rumbles with thunder – be sure to turn up the volume on your phone – and emits virtual rain when you touch it. Eliasson’s works, all part of his ‘Wunderkamer’ series, are some of the most satisfying on offer. Most are focused on natural phenomena, from rainbows and a burning sun, to a puffin and the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights), with which you can decorate your space virtually.

    Another highlight is the animated graffiti of Korean artist Myoung Jo Jeong, which includes a dog dreaming of itself in a work called ‘Feasibility’, and a flying figure in a nightgown – arms pointed skywards, Superman-style – entitled ‘One Should Stay Away from Anything Worldly’.

    You can place as many of the artworks as you like in virtual space simultaneously and then wander around them for a different view. Playing with the lighting really brings them to life, and if you want a closer look, turn the lights in the room down low and use the torch feature to highlight specific portions of each work.

    Armchair gallery visits

    Occasionally Acute Art will add a short-lived piece of AR art to its collection and will charge a small fee to download it, but these paid pieces are few and far between. The majority of the content is entirely free, as are the apps, which are available for both Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

    With global travel heavily restricted for the foreseeable future and most galleries closed, Acute Art is a great way to liven up not just the space you’ve probably been spending way too much time in lately, but also a novel way to spice up your Instagram or TikTok posts – all without leaving your armchair, couch, or whatever else you choose to sit on in the comfort of your own home. The best part? It’s definitely socially distant and unlikely to get you infected with anything other than an interest in contemporary, digital-based art.


    Craig Wilson