Art & Sculpture

Art & technology collide: Scan the World at the V&A

This weekend, the V&A will be alive with interactive digital activities as part of the London Design Festival. The programme of over 30 events, includes two standout activities that allow you to get stuck in with the latest scanning and 3D printing technology, one a competition hosted by Serpentine Galleries and Kidesign, the other from MyMiniFactory’s Scan the World team.


Details at a glance: Digital Design Weekend, 10.30-17.00 Saturday & Sunday, 24th & 25th September 2016
The V&A Museum, London, free entry

At the Digital Design Weekend, Serpentine Galleries and 3D printing education company Kidesign are hosting a competition for children to design and print the ‘pavilions of the future’, and the MyMiniFactory team Scan the World (STW) will be hosting two days of events that explore the V&A’s European art collection, with the help of iMakr.

The event offers something for parents, kids, big-kids and the curious alike.

Visitors are invited to:

  • Use MyMiniFactory’s new 3D viewer to virtually explore a gallery of printed sculptures,
  • Try a hands-on demo of 3D scanning and printing,
  • Help to complete the final piece of the project; a 3D model of the rather unusual Head of an Ox.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Head of an Ox, artist unknown
Victoria and Albert Museum, Head of an Ox, artist unknown

In addition to the above itinerary, STW Manager Jon Beck, will be holding discussions on the role of new technology within cultural heritage. Since taking A World of Fragile Parts to the  Venice Biennale  for the V&A earlier this year, Jon has become a reputable voice on the subject of heritage, having been interviewed on the subject by the Financial Times.

If you aren’t already familiar with the project, Scan the World aims to create an exhaustive archive of 3D printed artworks from all around the world. Launched by MyMiniFactory on 28th June 2014, the collection already contains more than 4,000 printable models, from Michelangelo’s David, to a model of the Marwari Horse Head sculpture by Nic Fiddian-Green (currently on display at Marble Arch). In printing terms, that comes to a total of over 21,000 hours. Or, 2.3 years in the making!

With so many questions about the purpose and possibilities of this ambitious project, I decided to catch up with Jon for a preview on what to expect from the V&A’s Digital Design Weekend, and explore why do we need a copy when we already have the original?

Accessibility. Education. Preservation.

Not everybody has easy access to art, and even if you do – can you remember a time when you were allowed to touch a masterpiece, such as the Venus di Milo? Or, better yet, have you ever recreated your own Vitruvian Man at home?

A 3D printed artwork that you can hold in your hands brings a person closer to craftsmanship than ever before. You can run your fingertips over the marks made by chisels hundreds of years ago; or examine details you can only imagine when viewed through a glass display case.

Detail: Head of a Bearded Old Man.
Detail Head of a Bearded Old Man.

In my interview with Jon, I asked him to tell me more about the sculptures already produced for the archive and which replicas would be on show to the public for the Digital Design Weekend.

The pieces I have worked on range from the archaic (Venus of Willendorf) to the more contemporary (Auguste Rodin) and everything in between. […] Most of the facsimiles fabricated for the event have been scanned from the V&A’s Europe Galleries where Scan the World will be exhibiting, albeit a couple of exceptions: a bronze print of The Gayer-Anderson Cat and a stone cast of The Bust of Mary from La Pietà.

scan the world myminifactory
The Gayer-Anderson Cat an The Bust of Mary from La Pietà. Image: MyMiniFactory

As a preview to the Digital Design Weekend, I had the privilege of handling one of the busts to be featured in the event, (Head of a Bearded Old Man by Augustin Pajou pictured below) with Jon expressing a particular enthusiasm for the piece:

Okay, so this guy might have been more of a personal interest for me. The (V&A) European Gallery for me expertly illustrates the two centuries between 1600 and 1800 when Europe came to life, exploring the rise of France and its role in becoming the arbiter of European aesthetic […] Alongside some of the precursors of French neoclassicism was Augustin Pajou.

[and] with the face and incredible complexity of this bust, how could I not feature him in the event!

In researching the conservation done by Scan the World, it became apparent to me that there are in fact many cultures disintegrating before our eyes. Taking as an example: Venice’s rising water levels, the delicate glass Blaschka sea-creatures, or the recent destruction of Palmyra – an ability to preserve world culture is more potent now than ever. By combining scanning technologies with 3D printing, we are also able to create replicas that differ from the originals only in the materials they are made from.

With the help of iMakr Jon has printed Pajou's Bearded Man at an almost 1:1 scale. Both figures will be displayed alongside each other for comparison at the weekend. Images left to right: Victoria and Albert Museum, MyMiniFactory
With the help of iMakr Jon has printed Pajou’s Bearded Man at an almost 1:1 scale. 
Images left to right: Victoria and Albert Museum, MyMiniFactory

With a commitment to quality, high-demand, and a growing community of 3D printers collaborating from all over the globe, Scan the World will undoubtedly be pursuing their bold goals for many years to come.

After the Digital Design Weekend, the 3D printed sculptures will be headed to iMakr’s 2016 Digical Show in Vauxhall on 30th September – 1st October. So if you miss your opportunity this weekend you can still make time for 3D printed artworks Friday and Saturday of next week.