Augmented Reality App Brings New Dimension to Red Dot Show & Art Sale

Emilee Geist

Art collectors and observers will have the chance to step inside Blue Star Contemporary’s Red Dot Show and Art Sale without ever leaving home thanks to a new augmented reality app that launches Sept. 23. Created by San Antonio–based tech firm Stokes, the app allows viewers to virtually walk from […]

Art collectors and observers will have the chance to step inside Blue Star Contemporary’s Red Dot Show and Art Sale without ever leaving home thanks to a new augmented reality app that launches Sept. 23.

Created by San Antonio–based tech firm Stokes, the app allows viewers to virtually walk from gallery to gallery and experience the over 100 pieces included in this year’s 30th annual Red Dot at the same scale they would if visiting the gallery in-person.

“Red Dot will be more accessible than ever, near and far, because of this technology,” says Mary Heathcott, executive director of Blue Star Contemporary.

Heathcott added that Blue Star’s galleries also will be open by appointment for locals who want to see the works but that the app allows for anyone to view the art—and purchase any piece they want to add to their collection—virtually. “Artwork is best experienced in-person, but the augmented reality app is kind of the closest thing we have in our power,” she says.

A screenshot view of a Red Dot gallery from within the event’s app, photo courtesy BSC.

In the app, which Stokes donated time and resources to build with Blue Star Contemporary, users can “walk” up close to pieces in each gallery space and even read information about the works. In some areas, videos by artists or patrons also play just as they would if you were at the Southtown gallery.

Jacqueline McGilvray, curator and exhibitions manager, says when she’s working on a physical gallery, she spends a lot of time considering how people will move through the space and what will fall into their sight line as they walk. Augmented reality relies on the physical room where a person is accessing it so McGilvray made similar considerations in setting up the virtual space, making sure no one collection was larger than a 12-foot-by-12-foot room and even considering what lighting worked best for each work inside the virtual gallery.

The Red Dot Show and Art Sale was originally scheduled for May but postponed due to COVID-19. Heathcott says the art sale typically draws around 500 patrons and is the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser of the year, accounting for about one-third of its operations annually.

Huizache Jaguar by César A. Martínez is one of the pieces featured in this year’s Red Dot. Users of the augmented reality app can “walk” up to the works to see them closer, photo courtesy BSC.

As part of the event, participating artists donate 50 percent of proceeds from the sale of their works back to Blue Star Contemporary (and some artists donate the full 100 percent). Featured artists include Ana Fernandez, Jesse Amado, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Kelly O’Connor, Gregorio Mannino, Ricky Armendariz and dozens of others.

The event also honors an artist and patron each year. This year’s honorees are Cesar A. Martinez, a San Antonio artist known for his work in the Chicano Art Movement, and Francesca Billups Mannix, co-chair of Blue Star Contemporary’s advisory council and a past board chair.

Blue Star Contemporary Red Dot Show and Art Sale

Sept. 23-Oct. 4

Download the app here to view on your smart phone or tablet

Visit bluestarcontemporary.org/tickets to reserve a time for an in-person gallery visit.

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