Preview

Review
Art & Technology

Vortic Collect: a promising virtual reality tool for galleries and a welcome getaway for art collectors

An expert view brought to you by our XR Panel of artists and storytellers who create in virtual reality and augmented reality

Dale Lewis at Edel Assanti, on the Vortic Collect app

Vortic Collect

Created by: Vortic Limited

Vortic Collect is an XR app for iPhone and iPad that allows users to browse exhibitions from participating galleries in virtual reality and also to "place" art works in home environments using augmented reality. Vortic's inventory includes works from London Collective, which brings together 40 of the city's leading contemporary galleries to present virtual exhibitions. Vortic Collect is one of the apps on the VorticXR platform, created and published by a London-based team.

Where to find it

Vortic Collect on the App Store

Vortic XR website

They say:

Collectors can now enjoy the highest-quality virtual viewing experiences and engage with two-dimensional and three-dimensional works in-situ, from anywhere in the world

VorticXR: Our platform consists of Vortic Curate, a content management system for galleries, which seamlessly integrates with two apps—Vortic Collect and Vortic VR—that bring art closer to collectors. Collectors can now enjoy the highest-quality virtual viewing experiences and engage with two-dimensional and three-dimensional works in-situ, from anywhere in the world.

The XR panel's ratings

Gretchen Andrew gave Vortic Collect a rating of 3/5 stars.

Carole Chainon gave a rating of 4/5 stars.

Dhiren Dasu gave a rating of 4/5 stars.

Eron Rauch gave a rating of 3.5/5 stars.

Giving an overall panel rating of 3.5/5 stars.

We say:

The app sets itself apart from other virtual galleries or other immersive art apps which tend to be a one-time experience

Carole Chainon: Have you ever wanted to see what a David Hockney painting would look like in your home? Or attend an exhibition located on the other side of the world? Vortic Collect seeks to become a platform for galleries to upload their content from different exhibitions and give users the ability to view these works in augmented reality.

The app sets itself apart from other virtual galleries or other immersive art apps which tend to be a one-time experience. You would download the app, play with it and never reopen it again. Vortic Collect is a well-designed, functional app, with lots of content to explore. I appreciated the breadth of its offerings, which allowed me to get lost in time and virtual space, wandering through the diverse galleries and discovering new artists from the comfort of my home.

Using the augmented reality (AR) function, you can view any painting on your own walls, and adjust its position as needed. The artist and gallery are also introduced through info cards. Users will recognise the gallery experience and its environments, thanks to the photo-realistic galleries, which make the app familiar and easy to use. However, I found myself looking for virtual enhancements to the real-life experience of going to an art gallery, such as customised environments; interactions with the artwork beyond the "place on wall"; an audio narration from the artist or curator while browsing the content; or "walking" around a 3D installation.

Vortic Collect is a comprehensive, full and clean app which I look forward to spending more time with as more content gets added. In the time of Covid-19, it is a promising tool for galleries worldwide and a welcome getaway for art patrons.

Is it easy to use?

A slower move towards a work, akin to a slow glide, that stopped with the entire piece on screen, would be closer to the actual physical experience

Gretchen Andrew: Vortic Collect opens with a pleasant flow and is generally easy to navigate, despite occasionally crashing. There is a feature that allows you to augment your reality by placing a work of art on your own walls, but I could not get it to look believable so as to contemplate the piece becoming my own. I commonly ended up too close to the works—both the double-tap and arrow features usually place you at an improper vantage—though, with your virtual nose pressed up against a work, the image quality can be properly admired.

Dhiren Dasu: In a nutshell, yes, the app was easy and intuitive to use. Installation was seamless through the App Store. The app launches smoothly and presents the user with a familiar tabular layout of individual exhibitions. Selecting a gallery leads to a screen with tabs for series overview, works of art in standard view, bio, and brick and mortar gallery information. On entering the exhibition, the navigation is straightforward with a double-tap dollying the viewer towards a work, pinch for zoom, and swipe for pan. The speed of the dolly seemed too fast for my taste and resolved with an extreme detail view. I think a slower move towards a work, akin to a slow glide, that stopped with the entire piece on screen, would be closer to the actual physical experience.

The arrows at the bottom of the screen to jump to the next image were actually more useful than the somewhat awkward scrolling with one finger. In some of the exhibitions, using the arrows did not sequentially move from one piece to the next. Instead the view whizzed around… back and forth, again in a manner that did not reflect the experience of moving from left to right or right to left in a real space. I presume this jump has to do with programmatic nomenclature—perhaps the view shifts based on alphabetic titles of the works as opposed to actual physical location on the wall. A minor issue, yet it did make an otherwise seamless experience a tad jagged.

Using the augmented reality feature in Vortic Collect

The AR section was quite fun to play with as I was able to place pieces from the exhibitions on the brick walls of my studio, which was very effective. This should be an excellent tool for collectors to audition art for that empty space on the garage wall between the Ferrari and the Bentley. If the virtual gallery spaces could be customised by individual artists, I think that would really help the overall experience. Given that this is virtual space, there is no actual limit on space, form, or texture. For example, in theory an artist should be able to choose a virtual 10,000 sq. ft industrial warehouse with peeling paint and brick walls if they feel that their work benefits from such a setting. I suspect that as the XR space gets more populated, the ability for customisation will be a major differentiator.

Eron Rauch: The general flow of the application is solid and should improve as it moves forward from minimal viable product (MVP), but right now it is plagued by bugs, user experience (UX)/user interface (UI) mistakes, and poor optimisation. One frustrating bug is that the back button is not displaying on the login screen, nor is the main Apple back button active. So if you accidentally browse to that screen without an account, you have to force-close the app from iOS and restart Vortic. The 3D virtual rooms have particularly janky UX/UI, with its controls all-but guaranteeing you’ll end up smashed against a wall and getting a little motion sick because the view tracking is way too sensitive. Regarding optimisation, it took my friends and me trying four iPads to find one new enough to properly run the 3D galleries.

How good is the art?

I applaud Dale Lewis and Edel Assanti’s decision to use the VR exhibition to create a parallel but intentionally non-replicated experience

Dale Lewis's show on the Edel Assanti gallery on Vortic Collect

Gretchen Andrew: Vortic Collect has a catalog of current and past exhibitions, my favourite being Dale Lewis at Edel Assanti. Storyboards displays some of his large “storyboard” paintings that explicitly connect to an in-real-life (IRL) exhibition currently on display at Edel Assanti’s London gallery. I applaud Lewis and Edel Assanti’s decision to use the VR exhibition to create a parallel but intentionally non-replicated experience. Within Vortic Collect, Lewis’s works are smaller, narrative segments from the artist’s most monumental work to date, The Great Day, a 36-metre painting that can only be seen in person or in the gallery’s installation shots, where it beautifully snakes around the gallery’s corners. I’d love to see more physical galleries use VR as a different but related space in ways that facilitate questions and conversations about the aesthetics and value of each.

Dhiren Dasu: A tough question to answer with any sense of objectivity. As an artist, I tend to judge art based on two criterion. 1) Do I have an emotional experience to the work? 2) Can I experience with the work without any references, historical antecedents, or prehistory? To put it simply, does the art speak for itself? I did appreciate the exhibitions of Nicholas Hatfull (at Josh Lilley's online gallery on Vortic Collect) for the sheer exuberance of feeling. I thought Khadija Saye’s work (at Victoria Miro) was very potent and stimulated me to find out more about her. Matthew Monahan’s charcoal/ watercolour drawings (at Massimo De Carlo) left a strong impression. Nick Relph’s work was extremely interesting to me as a photographer particularly for his micro/macro approach. I absolutely loved Minoru Nomata’s work and aesthetic (at White Cube).

Sheer exuberance: Nicholas Hatfull's Ed Ecco a Voi... (at Josh Lilley) can be found on Vortic Collect via the Vortic website

Eron Rauch: The art is of the high quality you’d expect from the London galleries represented here. Also of note, the image quality of the works is also very good. A limitation for casual art lovers just looking and not buying is that it currently features a very rarified selection of galleries, and it is unclear how open the platform will become to smaller and more experimental galleries.

What is gained by enjoying this in VR/AR rather than In Real Life?

Given the socially distanced and travel-fettered world, everything is gained by the VR/AR approach since the other is not an option

Gretchen Andrew: Vortic Collect seems to accommodate only two-dimensional, flat works, raising questions of how modes of display and public presentation can end up dictating culture. I also occasionally ended up in a totally empty room as with Maria Berrio’s A Day’s Cadence at Victoria Miro, a rare occurrence for in-real-life galleries where each space seems well-considered in relation to the whole. Finally, while the image quality is remarkable, Dale Lewis’s works did appear less impressively impastoed than I recall them to be, causing me to wonder how accurately work I was less familiar with is rendered. There is also no way to hold an information sheet digitally and reference it while looking at works to ascertain the title, size etc.

Dhiren Dasu: Given the socially distanced and travel-fettered world, I think that everything is gained by the VR/AR approach since the other is not an option at this point in time.

Eron Rauch: It is clear that Vortic Collect is primarily a service app for use to facilitate interactions between high-end galleries and collectors. Note that you need a private invite for a full account, limiting the appeal for regular users (like me) to perusing shows you are missing in-person.

What medium-specific qualities of VR/AR does it employ?

XR apps ... have one killer use: helping you get a feel for an artwork's relative scale ... Vortic Collect really highlighted this ... since it contains all three modes of viewing in one app

Gretchen Andrew: Within Vortic Collect an exhibition and gallery can have one to many relationships, meaning that a single exhibition of an artist’s work could technically be put on by two galleries simultaneously. While I did not see an example of this, the information structure intrigued me. Could such a feature lead to better collaborative support of artists who often are balancing the increasingly arbitrary boundaries of gallery representation agreements?

Dhiren Dasu: The AR implementation was better than other AR approaches that rely on just one plane i.e. the floor. Usage of both the floor and wall definitely makes placing work more lifelike and is just plain fun.

Relative scale: one of Vortic Collect's 3D rooms with gesture instructions for the user

Eron Rauch: XR apps, even rudimentary 3D galleries and AR, have one killer use: helping you get a feel for an artwork's relative scale and how it exists in space, even if the artwork itself is harder to parse than a just a high-resolution jpeg file. Vortic Collect really highlighted this for me since it contains all three modes of viewing in one app. Its slick 2D "viewing room" presentation is always much easier to browse through and enjoy the nuance of any given artwork. But these 2D presentations display every image in the exact same size on your device, from a tiny photogram to a massive silkscreen—or even a detail of the silkscreen. By also offering multiple styles of 3D presentation, Vortic Collect allows you to see how big a piece is on your wall in AR, while also getting an impression of how an artwork changes as you walk towards it or approach it from an obtuse angle via the 3D galleries.

Does it break new ground technically?

Vortic nicely brings together four mainstays of digital art sales/display into one slick platform

Gretchen Andrew: Vortic Collect is a simple and mostly usable app that could have been made ten years ago. Its success or failure will depend not on technical achievement but on network effects.

Dhiren Dasu: I didn’t see anything new that felt like a technical leap. However, the standardisation of the approach to all the exhibitions is worth considering as a step forward from an ease-of-use perspective.

Eron Rauch: Vortic’s main innovation is not any specific technology, but rather that it nicely brings together four mainstays of digital art sales/display into one slick platform: the online viewing room, the 3D gallery, AR placement of works in a buyer’s home, and a virtual gallery district. Oh, and, while it’s a touch sad this counts as breaking ground for cutting edge apps, the typography is solid.

The Art Newspaper’s XR Panel

Gretchen Andrew is a Search Engine Artist and Internet Imperialist who programs her vision boards to manipulate the internet with art and desire.

Carole Chainon is the co-founder of JYC, a XR development and production studio based in LA with a presence in Europe, creating XR experiences for the entertainment and enterprise sector. She is also a Spark AR Creator.

Dhiren Dasu is a digital media creator and consultant. His areas of speciality include photography, film, virtual space, graphic design, visual effects, animation, and audio production. Dasu, in his fine art persona as Shapeshifter7, makes artworks that echo and recompose the architectural spaces he photographs, turning them into immersive spaces.

Eron Rauch is an artist, writer, and curator whose projects explore the infrastructure of imagination, with a focus on subcultures, video games, and photography history.