It is no secret that Instagram has made waves in the art world. For better or worse, artists and arts organizations have come up with creative ways to capitalize on the platform’s popularity. Using the square format of Instagram photos for print sales have become popular with individual photographers as well as institutions, as have print-on-demand books created by uploading photographs from an Instagram feed. But the newest iteration isn’t a physical manifestation of a digital file. Instead, an online app from Sketchfab that creates a virtual reality museum from the most recent photographs in your Instagram account, taking the intangibility to a new level with Instamuseum.
To try it out, we created the Don’t Take Pictures museum from our Instagram account. We selected the Art Gallery template to display 12 photos. Visitors can zoom in by scrolling and move around the space by double clicking in the direction they wish to go. Each image is annotated with the title of the piece and the name of the photographer, providing a level of engagement beyond simply scrolling through pretty pictures. Just like in a museum of gallery, if a piece is of interest, simply “walk” up to it and read the label. The free version of the software allows for up to five annotations (label information) in a gallery.
The app uses Blender to generate 3D models and uploads them to Sketchfab. If you happen to have Google Cardboard headsets or the HTC Vibe a lying around (the only VR headsets that the app currently supports), you can stroll through the museum in all of its virtual glory. Even if you don’t, you can still interact with the museum on your computer as a three-dimensional rendering.
While fun, Instamuseum is not a substitute for visiting a brick-and-mortar space. The works are presented in Instagram’s default square format, are not to scale, and cannot be arranged by the techno-gallerist into a desired sequence. Virtual reality is still finding its place in our visual culture. As with most online art platforms, artists and arts professionals are finding ways to utilize this technology to connect with their audience in new and meaningful ways.