GLAMi nomination: Modigliani VR: The Ochre Atelier

nominated by: Heather Moorhouse, LTG, UK
institution: Tate Modern
category: Exhibition Media or Experience

Tate, Preloaded and HTC VIVE created an innovative integrated VR experience, reimagining Modigliani’s final studio in Paris, and integrating  it into the major Modigliani exhibition at Tate Modern – to immerse visitors in a space where Modigliani lived and worked – somewhere impossible to actually visit. The Ochre Atelier invites visitors to step into the studio where Modigliani lived and worked in the final months of his life, provoking empathy for with the artist, sparking connections with the people and artworks visitors see in the exhibition, and crucially, providing powerful context when visitors emerge into the last room of the exhibition containing Modigliani’s final Self Portrait.

Preloaded collaborated with Tate curatorial, digital, conservation, installation, and AV teams to establish the core principles to inform the solution. It aims to:

– Be low threshold, promoting comfort and accessibility to all
– Create empathy with Modigliani as a man we might have known
– Uphold authenticity, conceptually, and in detail
– Meet Tate’s standards for intellectual rigour and accuracy
– Be a VR-only experience

Drawing directly on the work Modigliani made in this studio, archive records and historical research, Preloaded brought this unphotographed space meticulously back to life through 60+ objects, written materials and artworks. The fire and cigarette still burning low, the bucket catching the incessant drip from the crack in ceiling, it’s as though Modigliani just left the room. The level of detail in the VR experience extends to the spatial, diegetic sound design which brings to life the courtyard below Modigliani’s studio, the Chopin being practised by a nearby pianist, and the sound of the rain beating down onto the metal roof below.  Voices, re-enacting first hand accounts from friends, sitters, and artists are triggered within the space.

Two artworks, including Modigliani’s final self portrait, were painstakingly recreated by Preloaded 3D modellers, using Tate’s research to inform every detail, down to the layering of paint and the specularity of the model and canvas stretcher.  

The whole experience is all reinforced with a careful and meaningful use of technology. Harnessing the HTC Vive’s six degrees of freedom (up, down, forwards, backwards, side to side) ensures that visitors can fully engage in the experience, but for VR first timers, the fact that the experience doesn’t utilise the controllers and  is designed to be seated means that it’s frictionless and low threshold.

The team thought carefully about how best to deploy the powerful HTC VIVE technology in gallery and undertook regular user testing to validate their approach.  The core audience for this exhibition are completely new to VR and on average 45-65 years old, traditional museum-goers. Testing revealed an anxiety about how to use the headsets; designing a simple and intuitive onboarding process was critical. The experience is designed to be seated, so that visitors don’t worry about tripping over or handling controllers.

The exhibition opened on 24th Nov and will run until April 2018; the VR is viewed in-gallery by around 3,500 visitors a week.  Visitors are demonstrating a stronger connection with the wider exhibition through this additional interpretative VR layer. The critical reception also credits an appropriate and meaningful use of technology.

“It’s an experience that’s technically stunning, and wonderfully simple” The Memo

“A stunning virtual reality recreation of Modigliani’s last studio” The Times

“A genuine compliment to the static paintings and sculptures in the halls beyond. (…) [I] looked upon everything in a more intimate light.” Engadget

“Just speechless. This is how art and technology should cooperate” Exhibition visitor

“A wonderful way to bring the exhibition to life. The historical research was fascinating, and it was an absolute treat to experience the artist’s life in this original way.” Exhibition visitor

“The new #Modigliani exhibition @Tate Modern is fascinating but I was blown away by the VR” @Nigel_Hewson

Video assets

Modigliani VR: The making of :

Modigliani VR: full demo –

Modigliani VR: Three minute demo: