No need to travel to London to see the National Gallery's new exhibition. The British museum is offering art lovers the chance to immerse themselves in the details of a 16th century Dutch masterpiece... on their phones. A major first for the National Gallery.
Until now, Jan Gossaert's "Adoration of the Kings" has not received the attention it deserves at the National Gallery. This Renaissance masterpiece about the birth of Jesus was to be the focus of the exhibition, "Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration,'" but the temporary closure of the British museum postponed its opening in May.
Faced with this setback, the curators of the National Gallery decided to adapt the exhibition to make it accessible to a wider audience. "Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration'" is now "an interactive experience for mobiles," through which art lovers can explore every detail of Jan Gossaert's painting. From the fur coat of King Balthazar to the broken cobblestones at the bottom of "The Adoration of the Kings."
To achieve such results, the museum's scientific department digitized this 16th century masterpiece in very high resolution, so that viewers could have "the best possible viewing experience."
Discover the National Gallery in a different way
"Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert's 'Adoration'" is also structured around six poems written by British Nigerian poet Theresa Lola. They highlight six scenes from the painting through the eyes of Balthazar, encouraging visitors to engage with visual details they may have missed. A way for the National Gallery to explore "themes of rupture, transformation and renewal" in sound, image and poetry.
‘Our aim through the innovation programme is to create enjoyable, meaningful experiences which engage new and more diverse audiences with the collection in different ways, placing our visitors at the heart of the design process. This experimental mobile experience was created as part of our response to the constraints on exhibition visitor numbers as a result of the pandemic," outlined Emma McFarland, Innovation Programme Lead at the National Gallery.
For good reason: the London museum saw its attendance drop by 80% in 2020, according to data from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva). But it was not the only site to receive fewer visitors due to the various health restrictions linked to the pandemic. Museums and other sites managed by Alva attracted only 45.4 million visitors last year, compared with 151.3 million in 2019.