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Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki takes Māori art to the world with release of new virtual tour

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o TƒÅmaki today releases a multi-sensory and immersive virtual tour of Toi T≈´ Toi Ora: Contemporary MƒÅori Art enabling people everywhere to enjoy highlights of the groundbreaking exhibition.

Using panoramic photography, 360-degree video and virtual reality software, the digital tour showcases the heart of one of the most significant exhibitions presented in Auckland Art Gallery’s history.

Gallery director Kirsten Lacy says the virtual tour offers people around New Zealand and across the world the opportunity to experience the exhibition in digital form.

"In a time when international tours for major exhibitions are not commonplace, virtual tours enable audiences to continue to experience art from afar. Auckland Art Gallery is leading the way with this experience, which makes Toi T≈´ Toi Ora accessible to anyone with a mobile phone or computer," she says.

The opportunities for storytelling and learning provided by Toi T≈´ Toi Ora: Contemporary MƒÅori Art are rich, nuanced and diverse, and are the primary catalyst for the virtual tour project.

‘Audiences can discover in ultra-hi-res detail artworks that relate to the MƒÅori creation narrative. Importantly, the project will keep the core of the physical exhibition alive as an experience long after the artworks have come down from the walls,’ says Lacy.

Toi T≈´ Toi Ora reflects the bicultural nature of Aotearoa with te reo MƒÅori and English-language content displayed throughout the virtual tour. It reveals to audiences around the world both the wairua (spirit) and the whakaako (teachings) of the MƒÅori creation story as articulated in the work of contemporary MƒÅori artists.

The digital experience is also available in simplified Chinese text with Mandarin audio. By offering three language selections, the Gallery hopes the virtual tour will reflect and become accessible to the diverse communities of Tamaki Makaurau.

Options within the virtual experience allow users to select a curator tour with insights to the exhibition or to take a family tour that ensures the whole whƒÅnau can enjoy the experience, no matter where they are in the world.

Acting as a precursor to a visit to the full exhibition – open at the Gallery until Sunday, May 9 – or as a post-visit memento, the virtual tour allows users to visit and re-visit artworks in their own time with the added benefits of audio guides, videos and high-res imagery. Virtual visitors can expect to find well-known, unknown and many more hidden details not normally visible to the naked eye.

The Gallery’s virtual tour collaborators, Post Mag and Break the Fourth, were challenged with optimising the physical exhibition for an online experience. Supported by Keegan Fepulea’i of Post Mag, the in-house project team brought focus to the section of the physical exhibition in which the curatorial frame of Toi T≈´ Toi Ora – the MƒÅori creation narrative – unfolds.

‘With the help of an external UX designer, Benek Lisefski, we have created an experience that mimics the feeling you get in the opening exhibition spaces, but with additional layers of insight and interpretation usually only available those walking through the Gallery with a curator,’ says Keegan.

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