L'exposition Kaws : New fiction se visite en réalité virtuelle dans le jeu vidéo Fortnite, avec une reproduction de la Serpentine Gallery londonienne.

In London, the artist Kaws launches the first exhibition on Fortnite

In parallel with the physical exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, Fortnite’s 400 million followers have access to a faithful replica of the museum in the video game with the artist’s works of art.

This is a first in the Fortnite video game. The New York artist Kaws, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, installed his pop paintings and colorful sculptures on Tuesday at the Serpentine Gallery, but also in the virtual replica of the London museum within the video game with 400 million followers.

In the middle of the frosted lawns of Hyde Park, in central London, onlookers aim with their phones at the roof of the Serpentine Gallery. Do they take pictures of the building with its red bricks and white columns? Not at all! Thanks to their mobile phone, they make appear in augmented reality a large sculpture of a blue man sitting on the roof, invisible to the naked eye. Upon entry, the sculpture of the New Yorker Kaws sets the tone: here virtual and reality intertwine throughout the exhibition “Kaws: New fiction”.

It is indeed composed of “three layers”, explains to AFP the artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist. “There is the physical exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery with paintings and sculptures, there are the augmented reality elements and there is the Serpentine Gallery on Fortnite”, one of the most popular video games in the world. For a week, the 400 million followers of the Epic Games phenomenon have access to a completely faithful replica of the museum in the game, walk around with their avatar and contemplate the works. Epic Game has already collaborated in a similar way with internationally renowned singers who have come to give concerts in the game, such as Aya Nakamura and Ariana Grande. “But this is the first time Fortnite has collaborated with the visual arts, with a public gallery,” says Mr Obrist. He considers it “very different” to see an exhibition in a game or physically, but considers these experiences “complementary”: many visitors are not familiar with the world of video games and could therefore be interested in it, and vice versa for gamers.

“I think for some children, this will be the first time they will feel comfortable, in their comfort zone, inside an exhibition”

Brian Donnelly, artist known as Kaws

“For us, it’s about reaching very different audiences”, to create “a transgenerational dialogue”, adds the artistic director. Indeed, the “average age of Fortnite players”, very popular among teenagers, “is much younger than that of an average visitor to a museum”, points out Hans Ulrich Obrist, who “hopes that a whole new generation will come to the gallery in this way”. Especially since this project will “reach an audience that is probably ten times larger than the Venice Biennale,” says the curator of the exhibition Daniel Birnbaum.

For the artist too, the interest lies in making his works more accessible. “What interests me is to know that my work can be seen by a child in India as in London,” the 47-year-old painter and sculptor told AFP, “it’s fascinating,” he said. “Such a large community will suddenly be able to go to the museum, see these paintings and sculptures,” says the former graffiti artist turned visual artist, “I think that for some children, this will be the first time they will feel comfortable, in their comfort zone, inside an exhibition”.

In illustration, the virtual reality replica of the exhibition in the game Fortnite. Instagram screenshot @kaws

“There will be no shooting in the exhibition”

Brian Donnelly, Kaws artist

His stylized skull-headed characters, who have already toured the world with giant installations or derivative products, will be able to seduce the young audience of Fortnite with their pop, accessible and colorful side. Kaws, whose this is the second collaboration with Fortnite, explains that his works will be exhibited in the “creative hub”, a specific mode of the game far from the games where players compete to be the last survivor. “There won’t be a shooting in the exhibition,” he jokes, touting a “different-than-we-think” community. As for whether adrenaline-addicted players will really stop contemplating his works in the game, “it’s hard to say,” the artist concedes, without being defeatist: “If you bring an eleven-year-old to a traditional museum, you don’t know if he’s going to look at the works. It’s no different”.

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