Among the most tangible consequences of the global pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are sharply rising oil prices and skyrocketing shipping costs. In March, the cost of oil hit its highest level in 14 years and estimates for maritime art jumped eight to 12 times from recent prices. Christie’s, however, may have found a futuristic way around the exorbitant costs and bottlenecks affecting traditional methods of transporting art.
Proto, a three-year-old Los Angeles-based company, has teamed up with Christie’s to take on one of the auction house’s May sales highlights, Fourteen year old dancer by Edgar Degas (est $20m-$30m) from the Anne Bass collection, on tour in high-end hologram form.
In the past, what are commonly referred to as holograms were expensive, one-time installations. Proto has developed large display cases and software that produce compelling and interactive volumetric displays, “holograms” that allow realistic images to be shown in what looks like three dimensions. The units are easily transportable and the images even more so that the holographic reproductions can be sent anywhere in the world that has a Proto device.
“Increasingly, devices are being used for interactive experiences over long distances — people teleporting to meetings from the United States to Europe and Asia for example,” a Proto spokesperson said. “A person appearing in the Proto can see and hear the audience and respond to them in real time.”
If these devices were to take hold (which they can, but bear in mind how slowly the mainstream art world is changing), the way works are transported – especially sculptures displayed at art fairs of art and auctions – could fundamentally change. Theoretically, Proto machines could help reduce air travel and the carbon footprint of the art world.
The hologram of Degas’ delicate bronze sculpture is currently on display at Christie’s San Francisco and will later be transported to Hong Kong via the cloud. And although it is not Actually there, visitors can experience the work as if they were in Anne Bass’s New York apartment, where it stood in the entryway a few feet from another item in Balthus’s sale girl at the window (estimated between 4 million and 6 million dollars). The little dancer slowly rotates in her futuristic showcase and viewers can interrupt the rotation by tapping on the screen to examine the details of the work.
It would be, in a way, the third version of Degas’ masterpiece. According to Christie’s, the two-thirds life-size depiction of a young ballet dancer was originally made in wax, which the artist carefully colored to simulate real flesh. This version was first shown in 1881 at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. Degas finally dressed this character with real accoutrements: a cotton-faille dancer’s bodice, linen ballet slippers, a tarlatan tutu, as well as a real hair wig, gathered in a braid and tied with a ribbon. of silk. The original wax version was not cast in bronze until after the artist’s death, when 29 casts were made, the majority of which are now in museums around the world.