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How One Gallery Reinvents the Virtual Tour

How One Gallery Reinvents the Virtual Tour

While galleries, museums, and other cultural sites keep re-opening and closing because of the pandemic, the Thierry Bigaignon Gallery in Paris launches a whole new type of virtual tour, called the Interactive Video Tour. It is the only photo gallery in the world to become equipped with a tool offering this level of interactivity, which might in turn increase its visibility on the international scene.
Interactive Video Tour © Galerie Thierry Bigaignon

Since the beginning of the COVID crisis, virtual tours have mushroomed all around the world wide web. Most tend to be rigid, minimally interactive, and nothing like the experience of a physical visit. Thierry Bigaignon, the founder of the eponymous gallery, has decided to invest in a platform that allows for the creation of a meaningful experience of a photographic exhibition. To that end, he joined forces with 11e District — video production professionals who develop innovative formats.

The technology behind the Interactive Video Tour makes a guided exhibition tour a reality, offering the virtual visitor a new way of interacting with the artworks, the ability to zoom in on the artists, and even participate in studio visits. The objective is to truly transform barebones virtual tours into personalized online visits; and, according to Thierry Bigaignon, this prototype is only the first step. Subtitled in English, this tool is poised to capture audiences in France and abroad.

Blind interviews the gallery owner about this groundbreaking innovation.

Interactive Video Tour © Galerie Thierry Bigaignon

What are some of the features of the new virtual tour of the Thierry Bigaignon Gallery?

Disenchanted by the customer experience offered by more classical virtual tours, 11e District and ourselves wanted to totally rethink the very concept of virtual tours. This means integrating real human contact in the form of a personal guided tour; creating a non-linear tour, where the visitor can choose how they want to discover the exhibition; as well as adding powerful interactive “in-video” features, such as focus points which invite the viewer to learn more about a work or an artist, to visit the artist’s studio, or to observe the creation of a work in the darkroom. All these innovations offer a very intimate, enriching experience, as close to physical reality as possible.   

Is this original idea your gallery’s an answer to the Covid situation?

Covid has clearly upped the ante when it comes to the need to find new ways of interacting with our audiences. The epidemic notwithstanding, I am very committed to innovation, because I firmly believe that only innovation can transform our business and help forge new connections between artists and art lovers. There is still a lot to be done, and we are hard at work. 

Interactive Video Tour © Galerie Thierry Bigaignon

We discover the artists you represent in a playful and lively way: through video interviews, photos that can be enlarged as we go, music clips, exclusive documents… Do you think that in 2020 interactivity has become important in the discovery of art?

Yes, I really do. I see it every day at the gallery. Getting up from behind the desk, welcoming visitors, talking to them, explaining the works, and encouraging them to explore further is one of the keys to success in this business. An immediate, visceral connection with a work is important, but learning more about it, about its author, the technique used, when relevant, understanding the essence of the work, often requires interaction with the gallery owner or the artist. In short, what we call “interactivity” in the virtual world, is nothing other than an encounter. And an encounter — or, better, encounters must be provoked. And we always end up richer than when we started.

What has been the reception in your community?

We decided to launch this Interactive Video Tour when it was just a prototype, a “proof of concept,” and we asked our visitors, clients, and friends to share their impressions. The feedback was immediate and by far exceeded our expectations. We received hundreds of emails in the days that followed, all accompanied by comments that I won’t share for fear of tooting my own horn! It was both very flattering and extremely encouraging. I think we hit the nail on the head. We will now refine this and try to find the necessary funding for a more systematic deployment.  

Interactive Video Tour © Galerie Thierry Bigaignon

Are you the only photo gallery to use this tool?

Yes, absolutely, the only photo gallery, the only gallery tout court, and maybe even the only company! These are trailblazing tools, and developed from scratch by our partner, 11th District, with whom we have worked very closely for several months now.

Has this Interactive Video Tour increased your sales?

In the prototype stage, not yet, which is to be expected, but when it is deployed, visitors will be able to select a work within the video itself, option it, or buy it directly online. 

Interactive Video Tour © Galerie Thierry Bigaignon

Are you already working on your next one?

In parallel with the improvements we’re making to the product, our priority is to raise funds to put several IVTs into production every year. We are looking for private or institutional partners who would help us accomplish this. The CNAP [Centre national des arts plastiques], which already supports galleries at various levels, might be interested in such an initiative, as might public authorities in general, which seem to be keen to promote a dematerialized economy. To be continued…

Click here to start your Thierry Bigaignon Gallery Interactive Video Tour.

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