Logo Mauritshuis

Category

VR

Year

2023

You can describe art in hundreds of different ways, you can talk about the composition, style, artist and even how the paint was made. The Mauritshuis “Roofkunst – 10 verhalen” (Loot – 10 stories) exhibition talks about something completely different, the unique history that connects the artworks in the exhibition: They were stolen.

Just telling people these stories didn’t feel adequate, even showing them wasn’t enough, so during this exhibition people are transported to an important moment in the artworks’ history. We got to develop this experience in Virtual Reality (VR).

You can experience this captivating exhibition at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin from 22 March 2024 to 26 January 2025.

Source: ©Mauritshuis

Roofkunst – 10 verhalen

The Mauritshuis “Roofkunst – 10 verhalen” exhibition tells the story of 10 looted artworks that are on display during the exhibition. We highlighted three of these stories through VR. 

  • The Quadriga on top of the Brandenburger Tor, looted by Napoleon.
  • An Indonesian Kris dagger, looted by the Dutch army during the colonial wars.
  • The last self-portrait made by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1669, looted by the Nazis for Adolf Hitlers Personal Führermuseum. 

The project was a unique collaboration of the classical art museum Het Mauritshuis, film studio Jongsma+O’Neil, and Moyosa Media. Due to this interdisciplinary team, we got to tell a unique story in an engaging way.

The exposition has been made to be very shareable by using an interesting color throughout the venue, in combination with Virtual Reality. (Source: @mauritshuis_museum)

Making VR easy and accessible

VR can be quite overwhelming. To mitigate this we developed the experience in a way that the user can just enjoy it without interacting with any UI. The host only needs 1 button, powered by custom hardware, to start and stop the experience. The rest of the experience is automated, from starting the program to calibrating the headset. This has made the experience seamless for users and the hosts. It has also lowered the amount of training we needed to provide and the amount of tech support needed in case of problems.

Real life locations

During the experience, the VR headsets change the world around the users but the artworks stay in exactly the same place. We used HTC lighthouses (special modules that the VR headset can track) to anchor the VR experiences to the real world. This enforces the feeling of being transported to those locations.

The locations that the user is transported to don’t just look realistic, they’re the real deal. We used photogrammetry scans of the actual location to get a 3D model. We refined these models to make the world feel realistic and also look amazing. We also integrated real-life footage into the 3D world to make the experience even more immersive. Lastly, we implemented 3D spatial audio, immersing users in the sounds of swarming bats, a cannon fire, and a conversation between two Germans discussing the impending destruction of the Rembrandt.

The Quadriga scene has more than 15.000 3D characters, all with varying animations.

A story that matters

The Mauritshuis “Roofkunst – 10 verhalen”  exhibition was a very fun and challenging project to work on. Due to the setting of the project we got to try new methods and technologies and succeeded in making a product we are truly proud of. We’re happy that we got to support the conversation about looted art and art repatriation.

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