The exhibition ’Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution‘ at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) was an overwhelming success. Between 1 February and 12 March almost 130,000 art lovers made their way to Ghent. Another 144,000 ticket holders were ready for a visit when the exhibition unfortunately had to close its doors on 13 March. Years of work were in danger of being lost and thousands of fans missed their chance to experience this once in a lifetime exhibition. That is why Visit Flanders and the MSK decided to join forces with Belgian virtual reality company Poppr,to develop an online 360° virtual tour of the Van Eyck galleries. In doing so, they created a lasting legacy for the largest Van Eyck exhibition in history.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent had to close its doors in March as a precautionary measure to help contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). After welcoming thousands of visitors a day, it suddenly became very quiet in the museum galleries. The many art lovers from all over the world who were unable to use their ticket are currently being refunded. But the MSK and Visit Flanders still wanted to give everyone the chance to get closer to Van Eyck from the comfort of their home.
Looking for digital alternatives
Initially, Visit Flanders and the MSK created a video tour guided by one of the curators. When it became clear that the exhibition would not reopen, they joined forces once more to design a digital version of the complete “Van Eyck” experience.
"Shortly before the artworks returned to their lenders, all the museum galleries were digitized in detail, resulting in a virtual, 360° visit to the largest Van Eyck exhibition in history, with 13 galleries, over 120 works of art, and more than 2 hours of audio and video description in eight languages. The digital visitor can choose between the audio guide for adults and the audio guide for children". - Sami Souguir, alderman of culture City of Ghent
Almost real: the complete exhibition on your screen
One of the biggest assets of the exhibition was the fact that you would never be able to get as close to Jan van Eyck as you did in Ghent. Nothing compares to seeing so many masterpieces from just a few centimetres away. But digital technologies have their own advantages, which are highlighted in the virtual tour.
From the comfort of their own home, the viewer can admire all the works at their own pace. They can zoom in and out on the art. They can quietly take it all in. The digital museum offers absolute exclusivity: 13 museum galleries to oneself. By offering the exhibition online, it also becomes accessible to anyone who wasn’t able to visit for physical, practical or other reasons.
The international success of the previous Van Eyck video tour already proved that these digital initiatives can increase the accessibility of culture. With the 360° virtual tour, in no less than 20k quality, we even take it a step further. Through the screen, an experience is offered that is close to the real life visit. The tour will be available at least until the end of 2020, free of charge.
In today's society, it’s hard to bring everyone together. A Van Eyck exhibition of this calibre, 4 years in the making, cannot be easily repeated. The Museum of Fine Arts Ghent and Visit Flanders are giving a second life to the enormous efforts of the museum team and highlight the mastery of Jan van Eyck, by creating this digital opportunity. Art lovers from all over the world will still have the chance to see these unique works together, to (re)experience what it was like to stroll in the Ghent exhibition galleries, and to marvel at the artist's optical revolution from the comfort of their own home.
"The exhibition on Jan van Eyck was one of the absolute highlights of the Flemish Masters cultural tourism project. It’s a pity that this exhibition had to be cancelled prematurely because of the COVID-19 health crisis. Following the very successful initiative ‘Stay at home museum’, Visit Flanders and the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent have joined forces again and offer worldwide visitors the opportunity to discover this exhibition on their own and to marvel at the wonderful details in the work of Jan van Eyck". - Zuhal Demir, Flemish Minister of Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism.
Discover the tour at www.vaneyck2020.be/en