Absa Art Goes Online With The Launch Of A Unique Virtual Experience Platform

Though 2020 provided its challenges, it was likewise a period of innovation and technological progression. The pandemic has allowed Absa to advance their digital art presence with the launch of the Absa Art Hot Spot. This unique virtual experience platform makes it possible for Absa to host live events such as webinars, art exhibitions, art masterclasses, and art auctions, while certain elements of their art-related sponsorships and partnerships such as the Absa L’Atelier art competition have also been migrated to the platform. 

“While there’s nothing like experiencing an artwork in person, seeing the brushstrokes and the range of techniques, the virtual platform allows us to reach and build a more diverse audience of art lovers and collectors, in an ever-changing world,” says Dr Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa Group. 

The Absa Art Hot Spot will afford audiences of all ages the opportunity to experience arts and culture content that was traditionally only available in physical spaces such as art fairs and festivals. “As a financial services provider, we also believe that visual art should not only be appreciated, but also considered as an alternative to traditional investment assets, and therefore we will also use the platform to guide and educate people on the opportunities of buying and investing in art,” says Dr Bayliss. 

A period of innovation and digital progression 

Absa partnered with Multi-Media Event Trading to devise the 3-dimensional virtual platform. “During lockdown last year, we assisted Dr Bayliss and his team to host a large number of virtual events, all carefully curated to adhere to Absa’s brand specifications and strategy.  Our next challenge was to find a way to extend the shelf life of the content, and that’s when the Absa Art Hot Spot came into being,” says Johnnie Heinemann, managing director of Multi-Media. 

“Our brief was to create a hyper-realistic exhibition space that will preserve the integrity of the art on show, but also with the next phases, which include gamification and virtual reality experiences, in mind. After months of testing, the original concept evolved to now offer visitors a custom-created, fully immersive virtual experience where the audience takes centre-stage.” 

Upon entering the Absa Art Hot Spot, visitors are able to move between the lobby and various rooms which include among other, a Virtual Art Gallery; a Classroom where art masterclasses and investment talks  will be held; as well as a Playground where sponsorships such as the Absa L’Atelier and the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) will be hosted. 

Other rooms include a Vault where more bespoke events such as food, wine and art pairings will be held with invited guests; an Auditorium where the webinars will take place as well as a Money Museum where visitors will be taken on a guided tour through Absa’s Money Museum. 

The Absa Money Museum provides a record of the history of money dating back 4 500 years to when people exchanged commodities such as salt, seashells, beads and animals for services rendered. It is the one and only home to these, and more numismatic items – documenting the history and journey of money and banking in South Africa. 

New exhibitions, new experiences and new features will be added to the dynamic platform on a regular basis. 

The Absa Art Hot Spot will be unveiled on Thursday 27 May with the launch of the “Power of 35” art exhibition. 

“We will showcase original work from previous Absa L’Atelier winners from across Africa and visitors will be given a glimpse of how art has evolved and used its voice on the continent over the past three decades,” explains Dr Bayliss. “The previous winners will also share their respective journeys since winning the competition and showcase their current work, using our virtual gallery.” 

The 35th Absa L’Atelier also taking place online 

With travel bans and country restrictions still in place, the 2021 Absa L’Atelier Awards competition has also been re-envisioned. The entire competition is currently taking place virtually, from online submissions to online adjudication of all entries. 

The Absa L’Atelier Awards ceremony later this year will also be streamed using the Absa Art Hot Spot virtual experience platform. The Absa L’Atelier winners will receive laptops and data and exposure to intensive virtually hosted mentorship and masterclasses, presented via the Absa Art Hot Spot, and geared towards facilitating them with skills and opportunities to develop their careers.

The completely virtual Absa L’Atelier experience allows for the democratisation of art on the continent and gives access to new entrants who may have faced challenges to submit their work in the past. 

“With the innovative, digitally-led approach, artists simply need access to a computer or a smart phone and the internet to submit their portfolios of work, and with entries closing in a few days’ time, we have seen a record number of registrations this year from artists in all African markets where we have a presence,” notes Dr Bayliss. 

“By going online, we are ensuring that we continue to provide young visual artists from across the continent with the platform they need to explore and comment on issues that impact their lives; irrespective of whether they are based in the rural north of Mozambique or the heart of bustling Nairobi.” 

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