Tate Modern’s Modigliani Exhibition Ventures Into Virtual Reality

This November, Tate Modern is unveiling the U.K.’s most comprehensive Amedeo Modigliani retrospective. But the show, simply titled “Modigliani,” is more than a survey of the artist’s work: It’s also an immersive experience complemented by the museum’s first foray into virtual reality.

The retrospective, which runs from November 23 to April 2, 2018, includes almost 100 works by the modernist artist. According to Maev Kennedy of The Guardian, the Tate exhibition reflects Modigliani’s lasting influence through a selection of the artist’s creations, including 10 of the nudes displayed at his 1917 show, portraits of friends, like Mexican muralist Diego Rivera as well as some lesser-known sculptures. While much of the VR aspect of the exhibit remains under wraps for now, Jonathan Vanian of Fortune reports that the museum has partnered with VR company HTC Vive to create a digital world reminiscent of early 20th-century Paris.

A native Italian, in his early 20s, Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906 and soon ingrained himself in the city’s thriving art world. Working alongside such figures as Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and Constantin Brancusi, he developed a distinctive style: Subjects portrayed with a semblance of realism, but with elongated faces and necks, as well as piercing, almond-shaped eyes.

“His art managed to bridge the stylistic chasm between classical Italian painting and avant-garde Modernism,” wrote Doug Stewart for Smithsonian magazine in 2005.

Commercially unsuccessful during his lifetime—he had one solo show in 1917, but police shut it down after seeing the artist’s frank depictions of nude, unshaven women—Modigliani struggled financially to pay the bills and would often exchange a sketch for a meal or a drink. Plagued by alcoholism, ill health and self-destructive behavior, he died at the age of 35 of tubercular meningitis. At the time, his lover and frequent muse, Jeanne Hébuterne, was pregnant with the couple’s second child. The day after his death, she threw herself out of a fifth-floor window.

According to a press release, the exhibition will pay special attention to Hébuterne and the other women who proved influential to Modigliani, especially the English poet Beatrice Hastings.

As for the VR experience, the press release states that it will be integrated in “right in the heart of the exhibition” and “will bring visitors closer into the artist’s world, enriching their understanding of his life and art.”

(Smithsonian.com, August 10, 2017)

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