When COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown, almost everything moved (more) online. Team meetings, yoga classes, concerts. No longer able to welcome guests onto their physical sites, industries across the board had to rely on website visits instead. Enter the explosion of virtual/online exhibitions. Here’s how four projects made the quick shift to the digital sphere amid COVID-19-induced restrictions.




Volna was planning to organize a solo show in Europe before the virus struck. The St Petersburg-based media-arts collective made a swift switch to present the exhibition online, since, according to cofounder Nikita Golyshev, ‘that’s pretty much the only way to visit exhibitions these days’. The team created exhibition spaces and installations using video-game development tools that simulate real-time scenes and lighting effects. Visitors can move freely and choose any observation point, highlighting one clear advantage of the medium. ‘With the help of advanced digital technology, cultural relic images can be clearly displayed from multiple angles, allowing the audience to see some details that cannot be seen at the scene,’ reported Yang Meng for the China Global Television Network. Other benefits include accessibility – 24/7 opening times, no travel limitations – and the ability to avoid queues and crowded spaces. Meng believes these factors enable ‘people to appreciate the cultural relics with more concentration’.




Hsc Designs

Hiloni Sutaria of Hsc Designs, a design firm in Ahmedabad, India, decided to launch products through what she’s calling ‘India’s first virtual furniture and product design exhibition’. And not just to launch them, but to hopefully help to sell them. ‘Participants have the option to order any pieces,’ she says. ‘They will be able to navigate in a virtual space and to change various aspects of the pieces such as colour, texture and material. With everyone around the world practising social distancing, this is the perfect time for people to experience such an idea. Even though we’re based in India, we could reach a larger audience than would be possible through a physical exhibition. We can also launch a larger selection of products and furniture than might be possible in a physical space. All of our products are and have always been made by locals. The global reach of this furniture line at this time would be an added advantage to our team of craftsmen, who have been the worst affected by the pandemic.’ Sutaria sees the only disadvantage to this strategy being the inability to interact with people – and them being able to physically interact with the furniture. ‘We are also planning to remove this barrier by coming up with a second, more immersive part of this experience.’




Space Popular

Just prior to the UK lockdown, Space Popular had designed the first virtual reality exhibition for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Visitors to Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media donned headsets to watch a morphing black maquette track 500 years of architecture history. Forced to close in the midst of the pandemic, RIBA commissioned Space Popular to move the exhibition online. But with home ownership of headsets so limited, how can you create immersion without them? According to Space Popular, through social interaction. Entering as avatars through a web browser, virtual visitors could meet friends and family in a digital reconstruction of the original gallery interior. The activity of meeting is ‘what makes you feel present in the space’, says Lara Lesmes of Space Popular. ‘Alone, our exhibition might feel slightly more engaging than a traditional website, but the moment someone else appears – even if they don’t talk to you – the experience is heightened.’




Bart and Ronin

Together with digital agency Ronin, event production agency Bart designed online exhibition New Horizons for tyre brand Vredestein after the Geneva International Motor Show and The Tire in Cologne were cancelled. They created their own 3D design museum inspired by the V&A Dundee. Unlike in Space Popular’s design, interaction with others wasn’t important, says Bart Veen, creative director of Bart. ‘Our target group wasn’t looking for a collective experience but for an individual brand experience with a clear message and goal. If exhibitions do become more virtual, we would first look into the needs of the target group and see in what ways we can create the collective experience.’




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