The Jackson Pollock gallery at MoMA has been virtually taken over by a group of artists who created an AR app to showcase their own works.
NEW YORK’S MUSEUM of Modern Art is under siege. Well, a virtual siege, at least. A group of renegade artists has co-opted the brightly-lit Jackson Pollock gallery on the museum’s fifth floor, turning it into their personal augmented reality playground.
To the uninitiated, the gallery remains unchanged; Pollock’s distinctive drip paintings are as prominent and pristine as ever. But to those that have downloaded the MoMAR Gallery app on their smartphones, the impressionist’s iconic paintings are merely markers—points of reference telling the app where to display the guerilla artists’ works. Viewed through the app, Pollock’s paintings are either remixed beyond recognition or entirely replaced. One artist has framed a Pollock painting in an interactive illustration of a smartphone running Instagram, allowing viewers to “heart” the work over and over again. Another has overwritten Pollack’s imagery with an artistic interpretation of the many conspiracy theories peddled by Q, a mainstay of the far-right on 4chan. Together, the eight works form a virtual exhibition dubbed “Hello, we’re from the internet,” which uses AR to challenge MoMA’s gatekeepers and museum curators at large.
When you think that art defines our cultural values, you also have to accept that those values are defined by a certain part of society—call it the elite,” says Damjan Pita, who, along with David Lobser, is the brains behind MoMAR.
MoMA, for its part, has stayed quiet about the app, and did not respond to a request for comment on this story. But the movement is about to go global: Lobser and Pita have heard from artists in Los Angeles, China, Germany, and Serbia, all hoping to use MoMAR’s open-source software to enact virtual takeovers of major museums in their own cities. Meanwhile, in recent months, art enthusiasts in Boston have used AR to “return” stolen artworks to their frames without the holding institution’s cooperation, and, in a particularly meta twist, an artist virtually vandalized a virtual work of art. The potential AR has to shake up the art world is slowly taking shape—and right now, it’s a lawless free-for-all.