Digital transformation company Compass UOL announced today the opening of The Stolen Art Gallery, the first metaverse museum that displays major works of art that have been stolen or are missing. Visitors, art lovers, and critics can interact with masterpieces that disappeared decades ago in this immersive social experience hall, the first of its kind.
The gallery includes Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, stolen from an oratory in Sicily, Italy, on a stormy night in October 1969. Rembrandt’s only seascape, Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, is also there. Burglars took it from the Gardner Museum in Boston in March 1990, in the biggest art heist in modern history.
In a metaverse twist, the Stolen Art Gallery brings back artist together with art. As moonlight filters from a skylight into the darkened warehouse of the gallery and you hear the crashing storm at sea, you can tap your wrist to have a miniature bust of Rembrandt materialize and share that he included a self-portrait in the boat, the only sailor looking back at you from the painting.
The experience helps understand why market research firm Gartner expects 25 percent of people will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse by 2026. You can come much closer to the painting that you would in a physical museum and notice tiny Rembrandt giving you a half smile as he grabs on a boat stay amid the giant waves. As one young visitor said, “I was so close that I felt like I could lick the painting.”
“The Stolen Art Gallery introduces the metaverse concept, replicating the experiences from online gaming platforms like Fortnite,” said Alexis Rockenbach, CEO of Compass UOL. “It is more about immersive social interaction than just the virtual reality environment—you can interact with your friends around the art pieces, discuss your impressions, make sketches, and share notes and information about the artist, the paintings, and their stories.”
The gallery also includes Cézanne’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise, stolen from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 1999. It was a carefully planned raid that must have netted the burglars millions, prompting Cezanne to comment that he lived all his life in poverty. At least the public can now pay him a visit and see two other missing works by Van Gogh and Manet just by donning a popular headset like the Meta Quest 2.
Compass UOL is making more investments on the metaverse. In April the company announced a new scholarship program to train a thousand people in augmented reality, virtual reality, and gaming design and animation through 2023.