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Christie’s Toured Masterpiece by Edgar Degas Using Hologram Technology by David Boos

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Christie’s Toured Masterpiece by Edgar Degas Using Hologram Technology

Using technology by the Los Angeles-based company Proto, Christie’s has opted not to tour Petite danseuse de quatorze ans by Edgar Degas physically, but to take it on a worldwide tour as a hologram. The work by Degas was valued at an estimated $20-30 million and was scheduled to be auctioned on May 12th as part of the late Anne Bass’s collection. The tour as a hologram was meant to showcase the work prior to the auction, while cutting down significantly on the high costs of shipping art around the world.

In the past, so-called holograms were expensive, one-time installations. Today, Proto Technologies has developed large display cases and software to produce realistic images in what appears to be three dimensions. The cases are significantly easier to transport than real works of art and the holographic reproductions can be sent to any place in the world that has a Proto display.

“Increasingly, the devices are being used for interactive experiences over long distances—people beaming to meetings from the U.S. to Europe and Asia for instance,” a Proto spokesperson told The Art Newspaper. As such, “a person appearing in the Proto can see and hear the audience and respond to them in real time.”

The technology used is the same as what was used to recreate the dead rapper Tupac at Coachella in 2012. The viewing boxes, however, mark a significant step upwards in portability compared to the stage-sized installation previously needed. Proto had collaborated with Christie’s already last year on several other projects.

Another advantage of holographic transportation becomes obvious when considering the sensitivity of some artworks of the past. Devang Thakkar, senior advisor for digital and technology at Christie’s, told Artnet News that “the hologram provides a lifelike digital replica displayed in three dimensions rather than flat digital screens like TVs or our computer monitors, allowing for an immersive and interactive experience.” 

At the auction on May 12th, Petite danseuse de quatorze ans by Edgar Degas was sold for $41.6 million, thus exceeding the estimated value by far. Whether the worldwide presentation as a hologram contributed to the final price is unknown. In the meanwhile, Proto CEO David Nussbaum is keen on future art projects making use of holographic technology, but right now there are no immediate plans for an upcoming collaboration.

David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.

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