Tate Gallery teams up with Minecraft

By Dougal Shaw
Technology reporter

media captionWATCH: Take a tour of Andre Derain's 1906 painting The Pool of London, in Minecraft

The Tate Gallery is going to exhibit some of its most celebrated artworks in 3D form, within the virtual world of the computer game Minecraft. But is this a good way to appreciate art?

Ever fancied stepping inside a painting, and going for a bit of an exploration inside it?

The Tate is inviting people to clamber over its artworks and have a good rummage.

There will be no security guards keeping watch.

It has teamed up with the makers of Minecraft - the online computer game where millions of players meticulously construct fantasy worlds block by block - to create 3D versions of two of its paintings, in a new virtual gallery.

image copyrightTate
image captionThe original: André Derain, The Pool of London, 1906. Tate collection

Andre Derain's 1906 painting The Pool of London, and Christopher Nevinson's depiction of New York, Soul of the Soulless City (1920), are the first pair to get this digital, 3D makeover.

"Visitors will see a white cube which represents the Tate Gallery," explains Jane Burton, Creative Director of Tate Media.

"You walk through the door with the painting in front of you.

"What you can do now is walk right up to the painting, and literally into it, you jump into it, and that's where your adventure begins."

Enter the art

Visitors will be able to interact with the painting's world.

You will be able to ride a train to get a passing view of Nevinson's cityscape, for example. Or stop for sandwiches with builders as they take a break from building skyscrapers.

image copyrightTate
image captionThe Minecraft version of Christopher Nevinson's depiction of New York, Soul of the Soulless City

Visitors need to beware of pirates in the Thames when visiting Derain's picture, and can experiment with mixing explosive paint pigments.

"You explore activities and challenges that relate to the themes of the artwork.

"It's art, history and adventure," says Jane Burton, whose children introduced her to the power of Minecraft.

image copyrightTate
image captionThe original of Christopher Nevinson's Soul of the Soulless City

The idea to exhibit in Minecraft originally came from artist Adam Clarke, who is a well known creator in the Minecraft community.

He put the idea forward for Tate's IK Prize, which is awarded to an idea that uses digital technology to engage people with the arts.

When the idea eventually came to fruition, Tate enlisted the skills of other celebrity Minecraft builders like Dragnoz, Kupo, Featherblade and Tewkesape to create the worlds inspired by the famous pictures.

However, not everyone is fully convinced.


These Minecraft creations will give new, younger audiences a familiarity with artworks, so that when they see the originals in a gallery, it will be like "seeing an old friend", says Times art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston.

That sense of recognition, "like seeing a celebrity", is a powerful tool to aid art appreciation, and encourage audiences.

"But ironically, the Minecraft works themselves offer a flatter experience," she continues.

"It feels more like entertainment rather than an imaginative relationship with the painting, when [Minecrafts's] 3D mapping replaces the real painting's illusionistic surfaces, doing the work for you."

Digital opening

The two works by Derain and Nevinson will be downloadable from Monday.

Players have to pay to join the Minecraft community, but the downloadable maps of the Tate's pictures are free.

With six more 3D masterpieces in the pipeline, many will be watching with interest to see how big the queues are on Monday, when Tate's Minecraft exhibition opens its digital doors.

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