Portrait of Daniel Birnbaum at the Moderna Museet by Åsa Lundén. Courtesy of Moderna Museet.
The budding field of virtual reality art just got a major vote of confidence from one of the art world’s leading curators. Daniel Birnbaum, the director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm for the past eight years, will leave to become the director of London-based virtual and augmented reality art platform Acute Art.
Prior to running Sweden’s foremost museum of modern and contemporary art, Birnbaum was the director of the Städelschule in Frankfurt, one of Europe’s most renowned art schools. He has also been a contributing editor at Artforum since 1998 and has curated several of the world’s biggest recurring exhibitions, including the Moscow Biennials in 2005 and 2007, the Yokohama Triennial in 2008, and the 2009 Venice Biennale. For someone with such an extensive track record with major art world institutions to take the helm of a year-old virtual reality art startup reflects enormous interest across the field in the ways artists will harness this technology.
In a statement, Birnbaum said:
I have had the great privilege to lead one of the best art schools, an exemplary museum of modern art and the most legendary of biennials. It is therefore a good moment to leave the old institutional world and move into an unknown territory. [...] This move marks an adventure, a journey in to the future. There is a voracious appetite for technology in the arts and I am curious to see what artists will do with these visual technologies. I am also excited by the opportunity for creative exchange with those that I have worked with in more traditional settings. In some ways, this move brings me back to what I find most exciting—closely collaborating with artists.
Acute Art, which launched in 2017, has made waves by commissioning new, VR works by a string of blue chip artists, including Jeff Koons, Marina Abramović, and Anish Kapoor. Birnbaum’s new role, which he’ll begin at the end of the year, will involve collaborating with artists and commissioning new VR and AR works as well as pursuing new ways to present virtual artworks to the public. Acute produces the works which are then made available for free via their app and website as well as on VR devices via Google Play, HTC Viveport, and Steam. Sweden’s Ministry of Culture will appoint Birnbaum’s successor to lead the Moderna Museet.