Take a Virtual Reality Tour of the World’s Stolen Art

A muse­um which con­tains only works of art that nobody can find sounds like some­thing Jorge Luis Borges would’ve dreamed up, but it has twice become a real­i­ty in the 21st cen­tu­ry — or twice become a vir­tu­al real­i­ty, any­way. “The Con­cert by Johannes Ver­meer. Pop­py Flow­ers by Vin­cent van Gogh. Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. These are some of the world’s most famous and expen­sive paint­ings ever stolen,” writes Fast Com­pa­ny’s Mark Wil­son. And though their where­abouts remain unknown, you can see them at The Muse­um of Stolen Art, “a vir­tu­al real­i­ty exhi­bi­tion cre­at­ed by Ziv Schnei­der, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Tisch ITP, that puts stolen works back on dis­play.”

museum of stolen art

At the moment, Schnei­der’s project exists on Google’s vir­tu­al real­i­ty plat­form Card­board, and you can down­load it as a smart­phone app for iOS or Android. Its cur­rent exhibits include “a col­lec­tion of pho­tographs list­ed as stolen in the FBI’s art crime data­base”; the pri­vate col­lec­tion of Fer­di­nand and Imel­da Mar­cos, for­mer pres­i­dent and first lady of the Philip­pines, now “being searched for by the PCGG – a Philip­pine gov­ern­ment office in charge of seiz­ing the Mar­cos’ ill got­ten wealth and bring­ing it back”; and “a large col­lec­tion of paint­ings stolen in some of the world’s most famous art heists, includ­ing the Stew­art and Isabel­la Gard­ner Muse­um in Boston.”

But even before Schnei­der’s insti­tu­tion opened its vir­tu­al-real­i­ty doors, writes The Cre­ators Pro­jec­t’s Becky Chung, “halfway across the world anoth­er insti­tu­tion — also called the Muse­um of Stolen Art — was debut­ing its gallery exhi­bi­tion of works cur­rent­ly report­ed stolen or miss­ing.” This Muse­um of Stolen Art, in the Nether­lands, presents the Pop­py Flow­ers and Water­loo Bridges of the art world in not vir­tu­al but aug­ment­ed real­i­ty: its vis­i­tors raise their phones or tablets up to its mean­ing­ful­ly emp­ty walls, and on their screens see the pur­loined works restored to their right­ful frames. William Gib­son, in some sense the Bor­ge­sian vision­ary of our tech-sat­u­rat­ed time, has described aug­ment­ed real­i­ty as the nat­ur­al evo­lu­tion of vir­tu­al real­i­ty. It’s made vir­tu­al art recov­ery pos­si­ble; can vir­tu­al art theft be far behind?

museum of stolen art 3

Reminder: You can down­load The Muse­um of Stolen Art smart­phone app on iOS and AndroidThe app is ide­al­ly designed for those with a Google card­board view­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

1.8 Mil­lion Free Works of Art from World-Class Muse­ums: A Meta List of Great Art Avail­able Online

Vis­it The Muse­um of Online Muse­ums (MoOM): A Mega Col­lec­tion of 220 Online Exhi­bi­tions

The British Muse­um Is Now Open To Every­one: Take a Vir­tu­al Tour and See 4,634 Arti­facts, Includ­ing the Roset­ta Stone

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of the 1913 Exhi­bi­tion That Intro­duced Avant-Garde Art to Amer­i­ca

Take a 3D Vir­tu­al Tour of the Sis­tine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca and Oth­er Art-Adorned Vat­i­can Spaces

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Hierony­mus Bosch’s Bewil­der­ing Mas­ter­piece The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

What Are the Most Stolen Books? Book­store Lists Fea­ture Works by Muraka­mi, Bukows­ki, Bur­roughs, Von­negut, Ker­ouac & Palah­niuk

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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