Shepard Fairey AR is an app that allows you to view Shepard Fairey’s exhibition Damaged from a mobile device. The exhibition takes a critical look at social issues in a state of crisis across the U.S. and has been transformed into an AR experience with hundreds of pieces of artwork, including world premieres, and over 100 minutes of exclusive narration by Fairey himself. The app costs $4.99.
This app does an excellent job of capturing an art exhibition in virtual form. Other virtual exhibitions I’ve experienced have been underwhelming and awkward to navigate, but Damaged is the first that has convinced me of the possibility of AR/VR to revolutionize access to high culture. The high production value of the app means that you can observe pieces in close detail, whether they’re two- or three-dimensional, without worrying about frozen images or glitches. You have the ability to move around the space physically or just tap and zoom with your fingers, so navigation is simple and intuitive.
Perhaps the best thing about this app is the narration. Being able to hear from the artist himself on his inspirations, collaborations, and influences in creating each piece of art leads to avenues of learning that those visiting the exhibit in person miss out on. The audio script is also available if you’d rather read than listen, but you can also listen as you wander, so you’re not limited to standing in front of just one piece of art while hearing its backstory. Either way, it’s easy to stay engrossed for an hour, or even two.
I have only one real complaint with my virtual experience of Damaged. While the curation and design are excellent, it is important to note that though you can download this app on your phone, a lot of Fairey’s pieces are very large, and experiencing the exhibition on such a small screen means you lose a sense of scale. Though it doesn’t entirely solve this problem, I recommend using a larger tablet, which will allow you to more comfortably see details and appreciate the magnitude of the art.
I really enjoyed Damaged not just because I love Shepard Fairey’s work but because I felt like this app captured exactly what a virtual exhibition should be; an experience that was worth the price of admission and about as close to actually experiencing the exhibition in person as one could hope for.Image: by Melanie Hering