Emerging Technologies: AR

Emerging Technologies: AR

Christie’s Art + Tech summits have gained a reputation for shedding light on emerging art techniques and posing difficult questions about the nature of artistic creation. The inaugural event  ‘Exploring Blockchain’ was hosted in London in 2018; followed a year later by ‘The AI Revolution’ in New York; and finally last week saw the ‘Mixed Reality’ summit take place in Hong Kong - where our very own Jacky Tsai was seen experimenting with augmented reality. 

At Unit London we keep an ever-watchful eye on emerging art trends and the artists who are driving them forward. With the trident of art technology identified by Christie’s as a starting point, we’ve taken a look at some of the artists breaking new ground in each of the three prongs: AI, AR and blockchain.


In May 2018 augmented reality announced itself in the art world: eight internet artists laid virtual siege to the Pollock room at MoMa, using the phrase “Hello, we’re from the internet.” This action essentially placed a virtual layer, accessible through a smartphone, over the top of Pollock’s work. Different artists toyed with this opportunity in different ways, some brought pieces to life with psychedelic optical illusions or skeletons climbing on the canvas; while others chose to layer an instagram template over the painting, giving viewers the opportunity to repeatedly ‘like’ the work.

Elsewhere Apple have collaborated with New York’s New Museum for [AR]T - a project to create large scale virtual artworks in six major cities. Six AR artists exhibited in the digital realm above famous landmarks. Artsy have launched an AR feature where users can ‘hang’ digital paintings from the 1M strong Artsy archive on their own walls, overcoming the most salient challenge of online purchasing: not being able to see the work. These projects, like most AR art created thus far, has the express purpose of democratising artistic and cultural spaces. Needless to say this is something Unit London finds particularly exciting, the scope for bringing more art to more people in an accessible and dynamic way is always enticing.


Parody of Jay's Music, 2019, Jacky Tsai

Jacky Tsai

Shanghai born Jacky Tsai, perhaps best known for being the creator of the Alexander Mcqueen skull motif, has been experimenting with AR for some time. Initially Tsai collaborated with Chinese musician and art collector Jay Chou, the former bringing visual life to the latters  musical compositions. Now Tsai is interested in the role AR can play within his own work. He has always been concerned with the process of artistic alchemy: attempting to fuse Chinese craft and tradition with western pop iconography to create a harmonious cultural coalescence. With this in mind, Tsai’s adoption of AR seems fitting, he manages to fuse the future of artistic practice with a more traditional past, bringing his vibrant settings to life.


Still Soaring, 2017, Luis Valle

Luis Valle

At Unit London we have always felt an affinity with street art and artists - as evidenced by our love of Mr Jago. The inherent focus on the democratisation of art, of taking something supposedly elite and transfering it to the public realm is something that chimes with our ethos. Luis Valle is a Miami-based Nicaraguan street artist using AR in an engaging way. Valle realises the latent artistic potential in the ubiquity of smartphones and their ability to manipulate images in the digital realm. Using the app ‘Mussa’, Valle believes his practice enlivens “the art experience. Everyone has a smartphone these days and with AR you can add many elements to an art piece. You can add sound, motion and 3D elements to the experience, which affects more of your senses.”


Wild, Heterotopias, Suli Shade

Shuli Sade

Shuli Sade’s practice cross-blends theory, research and application with a focus on her interest in memory, space and urbanism. Sade created a piece for Aery - an augmented reality developer - called “Wild, Heterotopias.” This work was made for High Line Nine Galleries and was based on her photographs of the landscaping along the highline. The viewers experienced orbs of gently oscillating greenery, spherical shapes floating in the virtual space above them. Sade has used AR in the past, in conjunction with her photography, and has likened the technology to a kiln or a paint brush: In the big picture, it is simply another way for an artist to create. “It’s a fabrication tool,” Ms. Sade said. “It’s a medium.” Sade is likely to continue exploring this new artistic frontier.





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