Sep 11, 2019

.ART Digital Innovation in Art nominee VirtuItaly: “Digital technology can teach people how to understand art, but not in a boring way”

Interview with Marco Cappellini, CEO and co-Founder of VirtuItaly, a project that creates edutainment experiences with art through digital technologies, both with immersive and interactive digital exhibitions.

With digital technologies getting more integrated in our daily lives, the initial awe and hype created by the “future has arrived” feeling subsides, and we face the questions characteristic of most great inventions: Do we have to limit its use to prevent the loss of our natural abilities? How can we use it to educate rather than to entertain? Will it gradually push out the ways we are used to?

Marco Cappellini has been answering these for years. He is the founder of VirtuItaly, a startup that creates edutainment experiences with art through digital technologies, both with immersive and interactive digital exhibitions. The interactive area of the project is based on ArtCentrica Platform, that lets users instantly see GigaPixel images and create semantic correlations between details of the super high-res images and connected concepts. Its biggest project to date is related to Uffizi Galleries collections, which makes it possible to see any detail of more than 1.000 works of art of Uffizi Gallery museum, virtually verify measures any portion of the painting, compare works of art, highlight correlated details.Other museum collections are being added, like the one from Pinacoteca di Brera. VirtuItaly has brought its exhibitions to Milan, Leipzig, China.

There will be more and more places where you will be able to experience art without the physical reproduction of art.

Renaissance Experience: by VirtuItaly is a compelling and emotional show based on 60 masterpieces from the Uffizi, introduced by a virtual representation of Florence. A soundtrack specifically composed for the exhibition accompanies the many details of these masterpieces which are projected on the surface of large format screens several meters in width. These animations create a magical atmosphere. That sounds impressive and makes one question whether classical art in its raw form can still be absorbed by the modern audience in the way it used to be devoured by people pre-smartphones. Marco argues: “I think with time the “wow” effect created by digital technology will gradually fade and its quality will become of utmost importance. At the same time there will be more and more places where you will be able to experience art without the physical of art.”


Renaissance Experience: a show based on 60 masterpieces from the Uffizi, introduced by a virtual representation of Florence.

Answering my skeptical remark about no virtual show ever being as great the real thing, Marco manages to convince me: “VR and even AR are not a substitute but an integration. They can inspire further research into art or a real visit. For example, Milan is very close to Florence, there is a fast train that only takes one hour and a half hour– but we had a lot of people from Milan commenting that they haven’t been to Florence and being grateful for the opportunity to have a glance at Uffizi, and also people saying that now they want to come see it themselves.”

It seems obvious that digital technology can be used for education, but more importantly it creates a familiar setting that’s not intimidating – something not only children need when it comes to connecting with art. Unless you were immersed into the world of art at an early age and developed immunity against the high degree of pathos surrounding certain cultured circles and cultural institutions, you might find yourself lost and unsure of where to begin. Digital technology is a tool democratic enough to solve the problem. “Academic settings, like a museum or a gallery, often create distance between people and art. Digital technology puts art in a neutral place and makes people feel more at ease with the whole experience. It can teach people how to understand art, but not in a boring way.”

Having established such a long-term global goal, VirtuItaly is ready for the next step forward. “Our plan is to extend into contemporary art both in Italy and internationally. I think that we have great opportunities in that sense because art is something that touches many people around the world, it’s a way to strengthen intercultural relations. It’s a way for us to improve humanity.”

Find out more about VirtuItaly.


Also published on Medium.

Annie Lee
Annie Lee
is a journalist and writer covering a wide range of topics - all the way from art and design to society and travel. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.