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Art & Architecture
Inteview with ArtLab by Hauser & Wirth – Where Art, Technology, Architecture and Video-Games Collide
ArtLab, in software installation view of Ellen Gallagher’s ‘DeLuxe’, 2004-2005 and Mark Bradford’s ‘Chicago’, 2019 created in HWVR. Courtesy the artists and Hauser & Wirth.

The collision of art, technology, architecture and video-games resulted in ArtLab by Hauser & Wirth. A leader in contemporary and modern art, Hauser & Wirth’s global presence is unmistakable. In April this year, Hauser & Wirth successfully debuted the inaugural Hauser & Wirth Virtual Reality (HWVR) exhibition during the pandemic, showcasing their adoption in virtual reality.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

– Scott Bizjack, Head of Digital Product and Innovation, Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth was founded by Iwan Wirth, Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser in 1992; the first gallery opened in Zurich. In 2003, they opened its first London gallery in a historic, listed building in Piccadilly designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1922. By 2009, a New York City branch opened on East 69th Street, followed by a second location four years later. The gallery also expanded to locations in Somerset (in 2014), Gstaad (in 2015), Los Angeles (in 2016), Hong Kong (in 2018) and St. Moritz (in 2018). This year, the team is also opening its new 36,000 square foot building in the West Chelsea Arts District. With another new location planned for 2021, an arts center planned in Menorca, Hauser & Wirth Menorca was an ideal testing ground for ArtLab which acted as the architecture for the inaugural HWVR.

Joining this interview is Scott Bizjack, the Head of Digital Product and Innovation at Hauser & Wirth to discuss how ArtLab was originally conceived, how the seemingly unrelated fields in technology, architecture and video-games play a role in the development of ArtLab and what’s next.

Von Chua:

For those who may not be familiar with ArtLab by Hauser & Wirth, can you briefly introduce it?

Scott Bizjack:

ArtLab was created with the intention of exploring the areas where Art and Technology intersect and innovating accordingly.

Von Chua:

How did the idea to first came into Hauser & Wirth’s radar? What prompted the investment into HWVR?

Scott Bizjack:
HWVR was originally conceived as an environmentally conscious way of planning shows and exhibitions with the highest degree of visual accuracy. Allowing for concise planning and execution of installations previous to any physical interaction with the space itself. As the covid-19 pandemic gripped the world it became clear that we could recalibrate this tool to provide immersive experiences to broad audiences through our digital platforms. Necessity is the mother of invention.

“HWVR was originally conceived as an environmentally conscious way of planning shows and exhibitions with the highest degree of visual accuracy.”

– Scott Bizjack, Head of Digital Product and Innovation, Hauser & Wirth

Von Chua:

From my understanding, HWVR is a bespoke technology stack not found in a single industry. Drawing from techniques applied in architecture, construction and video-games, how was the ArtLab team selected? Can you briefly share how many people are working on it and what are their areas of specialty?

Scott Bizjack:
We are a global team with specialties ranging from web developers to 3D designers and everything in between. ArtLab takes pride in using ‘Group Thinking’ to come up with the best solutions when presented with a problem to solve or idea to elaborate on. We are made up of a mix of art and technology specialists from outside industries to garner the most wholesome perspectives.

Von Chua:

Are there any particular mediums that work better via the HWVR exhibition format?


Scott Bizjack:

Our use of HWVR is ever evolving and we plan on continuing to explore the 3D landscape. I hesitate to say any media medium is better than others because there is still so much we would like to experiment with, however we have found a lot of engagement from our audience with explorable formats and cinematics.

Von Chua:

Congratulations on the inaugural HWVR exhibition and contributing 10% of the profits to the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. From the first exhibition, can you share any challenges in selling an artwork via virtual reality?

Scott Bizjack:
We have found great success with regards to the sale of art via our digital platforms, but as is true with any ArtLab project, we are always looking to improve. In this use case specifically, UX is a major focus for us moving forward.

Von Chua:

How much time does it take to plan and execute a HWVR exhibition?

Scott Bizjack:
With every iteration of HWVR we have become faster and more efficient. The inaugural exhibition  ‘Beside Itself’ was about 1 month of production, ‘Arshile Gorky and Jack Whitten’ was 3 weeks, and ‘David Smith. Sprays’ took just over 2 weeks. With a crew of technologists, process and workflow are second nature to us. We love a good flow chart in ArtLab.

Von Chua:

Did the inaugural HWVR Exhibition ‘Beside Itself’ provide any feedback for improvements to the second HWVR Exhibition ‘David Smith. Sprays’? What were they?

Scott Bizjack:
Constant improvement is a pillar of ArtLab. With every iteration we like to review projects to see where we can improve. We celebrate our perceived shortcomings as the stepping stones towards future success. The first launch of HWVR had a large focus on digital innovation and design, whereas with ‘David Smith. Sprays’ we wanted the focus to be on the artist, not the technology itself. Instead of just a full virtual video, we have chosen to mix VR footage with voice overs and archival images in order to better convey this focus.

“The first launch of HWVR had a large focus on digital innovation and design, whereas with ‘David Smith. Sprays’ we wanted the focus to be on the artist, not the technology itself.”

– Scott Bizjack, Head of Digital Product and Innovation, Hauser & Wirth

Von Chua:

The technology seems particularly helpful to Hauser & Wirth’s internal team to visualize exhibition spaces today. Are there any future plans for the HWVR technology that the team would like to realise?

Scott Bizjack:
Without revealing too much of our future roadmap, HWVR has no lack of use cases. These use cases range from the purely creative to the heavily logistical and every shade in between and we plan on exploring each thoroughly.

Von Chua:

ArtLab’s initial primary goal was to develop a technology that would help the artists visualize the spaces where their exhibitions would be presented. I am excited about the progress to innovate how we plan exhibitions using technology, as well as the environmental impact of it. An article on Artnet news reported that an early version of the software helped reduce the gallery’s freight costs by roughly 50% during the 2019 Art Basel Miami Beach. Can you share the impacts that Hauser & Wirth are expecting to achieve with HWVR?

Scott Bizjack:
We absolutely plan on continuing this trend of reducing costs and our carbon footprint through direct use of technology. As with any of our projects, iteration is the key to long term success, so we plan on perfecting the process in order to continue to achieve better and better results.

“As with any of our projects, iteration is the key to long term success, so we plan on perfecting the process in order to continue to achieve better and better results.”

– Scott Bizjack, Head of Digital Product and Innovation, Hauser & Wirth

Von Chua:

What are the biggest challenges so far and what are the long-term aspirations for the HWVR technology?  

Scott Bizjack:

Our long term goals with HWVR run parallel with how the 3D industry is evolving. Generally a lot of the problems we are trying to solve also face the 3D industry at large. Much of the time when we face technical challenges, we just as soon find a start-up, new software, or software update that takes these challenges head on. We are proud to be on the cutting edge of technology and plan on evolving with it.  

To experience Hauser & Wirth Virtual Reality in person, visit the following pages:

Beside Itself

Arshile Gorky and Jack Whitten

David Smith. Sprays

With sincere thanks to Hauser & Wirth’s team Scott Bizjack and Laura Cook for making this interview happen and sharing their insights. ArtLab’s multi-disciplinary approach towards furthering innovation in the art industry is one I look forward to experiencing. The real vision, I see, is the scale of the environmental and cost impact that acts as a positive encouragement to the industry.

Interview conducted by Von Chua. First published on ADF Web Magazine on 23/07/2020. If you have any questions or would like to further discuss about the relationship between art, technology and architecture, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at von@vonxarchitects.com

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