National Gallery Scoops VR Series ‘(Hi)Story of a Painting’

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After launching their first volley at SXSW this past spring, U.K.-based outfit Fat Red Bird are set to expand its “(Hi)Story of a Painting” franchise, partnering with the National Gallery in London for the series’ four subsequent installments.

Directed by Gaëlle Mourre and Quentin Darras, and produced by Charlotte Mikkelborg (who also runs the U.K.-based Picture This Productions), each 12-minute episode focuses on an iconic painter and one of their flagship works, exploring the artist’s life while assuming a visual approach that replicates the style of the painting. Creative XR (Digital Catapult and Arts Council England) financed the first two installments.

Assuming a pointillist style, episode one centered on Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”; its follow-up will center on Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria,” Variety has learned.

“Artemisia Gentileschi is probably just below the super-iconic statuses of the Van Goghs and Seurats, possibly because she was a woman of a certain era,” says series producer Charlotte Mikkelborg. “The National Gallery has looked to elevate her to that status, and we’re on board with that.”

“We’d like to do subsequent series, possibly with different galleries, focused on different forms,” Mikkelborg continues. “We think the franchise could expand beyond painters, to spotlight artists in other contexts.”

“This series is based on famous painters and paintings, while subsequent ones could focus on women artists, or artists who are not iconic but might have been had circumstances been different,” says Mourre. “We could also look at architecture or sculpture, which would make a lot of sense in VR.”

The filmmakers’ choice to employ voice over from modern recording artists will remain a constant. “It’s important to us that these stories are not told by the usual art historians, but instead by artists engaging in contemporary practices, adding their own touch,” says Mourre.

Co-creator of the immersive VR film “Mechanical Souls,” Mourre is also developing the multidisciplinary project “Red.” Mikkelborg also brought “The Lazarus Project” to NewImages’ XR financing market via her Picture This Productions outfit.