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With most museums and galleries closed to the public, people are now chronicling their art on the social media platform — and they’re getting really creative. This Belgian visual artist went so far as to make a virtual gallery users can run around in through augmented reality.
Brussels-based artist Benjamin Spark is known for blending European street art and American pop culture into his pieces. The result is bright collage-like images featuring icons like Batman, Astro Boy, and Spiderman.
Similar to the mobile game Temple Run, The 10.000 Dollar Run lets users control a character inspired by Stark to run around a virtual gallery. They must avoid visitors and paparazzi, and collect paintings and tubs of paint. It’s found under Instagram's face filters and the entire game lasts for as long as you can survive. The player with the highest score by August 30 will win an artwork worth $10,000, that can be shipped to any country.
To develop the game, Spark teamed up with Niels Soete, the founder of Vision XR, a startup that specialises in augmented and virtual reality products.
“The game is an allegory of the struggles of artists in the art market,” Spark told VICE. “Artists have to deal with everyone including the press, galleries, fans and are constantly in a rush to get things done. This is what the game reflects.”
Apart from the grand winner, art prints worth $450 each are also given to the highest scorer every week.
Soete told VICE that the game, which was released on June 30, was viewed 45,000 times and played 7,000 in 14 days. Like similar games, The $10,000 Run has an addicting quality to it. Navigating your way through the art museum with mini Spark, avoiding the crowd, and catching all the paint in a fast-paced environment is thrilling.
But Spark is aware that art purists may turn up their noses at the unconventional execution.
“The art industry has a very ‘elite’ image where the artwork is sold at very high prices. We are moving away from that elite image, and simply sharing my artwork more with the public,” he said.
For Soete, the AR game is just the beginning of many innovations in the art world.
“Instagram is shaping the art industry, and we will continue to change it too,” Soete told VICE.
Spark agreed, saying that he too has noticed that social media now plays a big role in showcasing and discovering new art.
“Previously, artists were told that we should never share our artwork before it is displayed, as visitors are excited to see the new artworks in the museums,” the artist said. “With social media, now it’s the complete opposite. People see artworks on their phone, share it with their friends, and then go to see it in person.”
Spark and Soete are good friends and have talked about collaborating for a while.
“Although Benjamin and I have a 28-year-old age gap, both of us have the same perspective on art. It is constantly evolving, and incorporating technology is what makes new art. This is when we thought of the Instagram filter idea,” Soete said.
And while much of the art world has been hit by the pandemic, it has only served to kick their plans into high gear.
"Regardless of COVID, art will always be accessible, in different forms and on various platforms, not just in real life," Spark said. "The future of the art industry will be neither fully in-person nor fully virtual. It will be a perfect mix of both."