A new age: 3D art

3D was, for a long, long while, a gimmick. It has always been fun, silly even, those white cardboard glasses – one lens magenta, the other green – comical to wear, comical to look at. While the feeling of making real, so to speak, a flat image, was and is strangely beguiling in an amateurish way, it was never capable of delivering on the kind of quality we now expect, at least in terms of entertainment.
Nowadays, as James Cameron’s multimillion sci-fi blockbuster movie Avatar revealed, 3D can be done well, so long as it is subtle and the visionary behind it capable of understanding that.
3D has also evolved beyond its initial premise. You can now, for example print 3D objects. Mass production, to a degree, is coming to a home near you, with machines like the Makerbot Digitizer capable of manufacturing detailed objects.
Such developments are indicative of how innovative ideas are regularly co-opted, reinvented and then put to use elsewhere. This is creativity in its truest sense, without boundaries. Why limit your reach?
It hasn’t taken long then for the art world to awaken to the now the obvious potential of 3D. Leading the way is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which has, in partnership with Fujifilm, developed a way of duplicating paintings by the Dutch post-impressionist painter.
Dubbed ‘Relievos’, these replica works of art bring a whole new meaning to high-quality facsimile prints and posters, the kind of reproductions that most of us are resigned to own, the genuine piece of art very much beyond our financial capabilities. These imitations are real; very real, the kind that makes you forget you are in possession of a copy.
“As a cultural enterprise, the Van Gogh Museum is constantly in search of new markets,” explained Axel Rüger, director of the Van Gogh Museum. “These high-quality reproductions are intended for individuals with the means and interest to acquire superb reproductions of Van Gogh paintings.”
Now these works of arts are authentic in the sense that it isn’t just a superficial, face-only depiction of a Van Gogh painting. It is the whole deal, frame included. In other words, the process of reliefography results in a total clone of the original. The back is just as real as the front.
“This particular process has been developed with paintings in mind,” Mr Rüger told the Guradian. “The work of Van Gogh lends itself particularly well, since the pictures are so rich in surface structure. We have been working with them on the colour quality and fine-tuning.”
The only catch, so to speak, is the price tag. It isn’t as high as you might think (like the £53.1 million paid for Portrait of Dr. Gachet in 1990) nor as low as you’d preferably like, but all in all, given the quality of the uber-ersatz reproduction, an understandable launch price.
One of the ‘Relievos’ –  currently available in Almond Blossom(1890), Sunflowers (1889), The Harvest (1888), Wheatfield under Thunderclouds (1890) and Boulevard deClichy (1887) – will set you back £22,000, with each print run being limited to 260 copies per painting.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about such paintings is how they will fare in the art market. This is a new area, one yet to be fully understood, but one, with full knowledge that they are not authentic, that has a lot of credibility. It’s not necessarily about duping yourself and others that you genuinely own one – though the potential for that is palpable – but about getting closer to something that will always be out of your reach.
When it comes to timeless works of art, a 3D version is the next best alternative. That is perhaps worth the £22,000 currently asked for such a privilege might just be worth it … at a push of course.
Cadogan Tate can ship works of art to your chosen destination anywhere in the world.