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When we heard there was a video game about art and curating, we had to give it a try. Watch us play Occupy White Walls and build and curate an art gallery of our dreams (well, almost). And don't forget to check out PBS's new show Monstrum!: https://www.youtube.com/monstrumpbs

Download and play Occupy White Walls: https://www.oww.io/

This episode was made in partnership with Smarthistory, the most-visited art history website in the world (https://smarthistory.org). Subscribe to their channel today: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3R-xanNgtoa8b7gpVexVlA.

Thanks to our Grandmaster of the Arts Vincent Apa, and all of our patrons, especially Iain Eudailey, Frame Monster Design Laboratory, Patrick Hanna, Nichole Hicks, Eve Leonard, David Moore, Jane Quale, Constance Urist, and Nicholas Xu. To support our channel, visit: http://www.patreon.com/artassignment.

Ring that notification bell to learn about new episodes of The Art Assignment every other Thursday.
Hello, and welcome to a new and unusual episode of The Art Assignment, where I’m playing a game called Occupy White Walls.

It’s developer, StikiPixels, tells me to pronounce its acronym “Owouawwouaw” and describes it as “a PC sandbox-building, AI-driven MMO where people play with Art.” Which means—if you’re uninitiated, as you can already tell I am—that it’s a game where you and lots of other people get to build art galleries, fill them with art, and open them up for others to visit. I’ve landed in this public plaza area, where you can walk around and see the kind of things that are possible to do with the game, at least eventually when you build up your gallery and collection and get to higher levels.

But here you can see the types of surfaces you can use to make your gallery, get acquainted with the bots who roam the place--hello, contagion, I think I’ll let you be--and see some of the art that the AI system named DAISY will help you buy once you’re at your home gallery. You can click in to each of the artworks and see that some of them, like this one, were recently made and sourced from I’m not sure where. But there are also a good number of historical works like this one by Cecelia Beaux from 1914, which it doesn’t tell you here but is actually in the collection of the Met museum in New York.

Beaux was an accomplished and well regarded painter of society portraits, and this is. Ernesta, the artist’s favorite niece. Which is information it would be nice to have here.

But the game is still in development and will be updated and eventually replaced with a more finished version. When we’re ready to get out of here and work on our own gallery, we can go to this nifty postal box type thing, which allows us to teleport to our “home” gallery. Mine’s called sugenterprises, and I got a slight start on it earlier just to torture you guys a little less with my fumbling around.

But here we are at my front desk, where you can see the splatter paint that accompanies anyone’s arrival in a new space and will thankfully disappear. My gallery is very much under construction, and came with a frightful assortment of partially painted walls, which I’m going to do something about don’t worry. I’ve acquired a few paintings which I’d like to show you, including this showstopper by Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, which is a very large painting in real life, and is shown to roughly to proportion like all the art in the game.

The amazing thing about this painting is that it was made in 1907, which predates by years the works by other artists like Malevich, Kandinsky, and Mondrian who are often credited as inventing “pure” abstraction in painting. Her distinctive style emerged from her interest in spiritualism, and very few even saw or knew of her work until it was resuscitated by scholars in the 1980s. And there was just a huge retrospective of her work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, so remember that history can always be rewritten!

But moving on, I also collected this lovely still life over here by the brilliant Dutch painter, Jan van Huysum. It’s actually from the collection of the National Gallery of Art, and this entry provides some nice information for us. And we can go in for a closer look here and explore all of its exquisite details, like this perfect little birds nest with shiny blue eggs, and a butterfly perched just so over here.

And look at this fly! Van Huysum was showing off his mad skills here, with these hyper-real flowers, some fresh and some even a little wilty. But we’re just getting started here, and the way to buy more art is to consult with their AI discovery engine DAISY, who offers you a random assortment of art choices from her database.

You peruse and click on the ones you like, and then she learns from your choices and offers you more of that. Like, I like this work by Edouard Manet, which nicely illustrates the urban life newly possible in 19th Century Paris, women out smoking cigarettes and drinking plum brandy, staring absently into the distance. It’s not nearly as good as this strikingly similar but more cynical painting by Edgar.

Degas from right about the same time, of a young woman slumped in front of a glass of absinthe. But let’s buy it anyway, because at 350… owouawwouaw units?, it’s a steal. You don’t actually have to spend any real money, by the way, this is all earned in the game.

Once you buy a painting, you can go to your inventory, pull the painting into your lower tab, and hang it on a wall wherever you’d like. And voila! A magical spotlight appears on it, even though we don’t even have a ceiling or lights.

I’m going to try to hang it at about standard viewing height, which for a painting that’s not enormous should be about 60 inches from the floor to the center of the work. Mine’s a little high, but eh, we’ve got bigger problems. It looks a little funny without a frame, so let’s add one in, maybe this minimal brown one below.

Nah, too slim and not at all period-appropriate, so let’s look at our framing inventory. Eeps. It does leave a little something to be desired, but let’s try this one on?

Not awesome, but it will do for now. Now the first artwork that I bought and hung tragically low is this mound of butter painting over here by Antoine Vollon. It’s an exquisite painting, which is really quite abstract when you dive into the detail view and appreciate all of the loose brushwork.

Who doesn’t love a giant mound of butter? (Vegans, I guess. But you can’t please ‘em all.) Alright, now the cool thing about this game is that you can be a curator and make up any sort of arrangement you want. I like to think about sight lines, and what you’re likely to see first when you walk into a room, like this nice big wall here.

Let’s visit Daisy and figure out something to put in here. Hmm, next. Ugh, Renoir, whom I cannot abide.

Moving on. Eh. I wish I could type in some names or keywords here, but hopefully that will be something that improves as the game develops.

Oh, but here we have a masterpiece by Diego Velasquez. His striking portrait of his enslaved assistant, Juan de Pareja, whom he gives a name and a substantial amount of dignity and agency. Inside of this painting at least.

SOLD. Let’s find some other distinguished individuals to join him. No, not her.

Oh, but yes, definitely her. This treasure of a painting by Johannes Vermeer. It’s not The girl with a pearl earring, but it is A girl with a pearl earring.

She’s “A Lady Writing”, and look at the details of her fur coat here and the delicate ribbons in her hair. Oh, and even more pearls on the desk! That soft look about her face and the glowing eyes.

Definitely a keeper. I’m thinking we should make a portrait gallery, so let’s go ahead and snag this bright-eyed lady, mostly because of her little squirrel friend, oh and the bird she’s holding unnaturally. Weird, but good.

And this looks intriguing-- it’s a trompe l’oeil, which is French for “trick of the eye,” by an Dutch or Flemish artist whose name we don’t know. And wow, this one is great. It’s a painting of a crumpled etching on paper, that has been red wax sealed to a wooden panel.

All the different textures rendered in paint! And it’s a portrait to boot. We’ll take it.

Let’s add this drawing by Toulouse-Lautrec. And let’s look for some art from outside of Europe, which is certainly represented sufficiently in this game. I think Daisy has decided that I like portraits of women with animals, since they’re showing me this woman with a caged monkey.

This is where being able to search with keywords could really help. But ok, so we add a few more portraits to our collection, now trying to avoid the overabundance of people with animals they’re offering me. And now it’s time to hang our gallery, starting with our Velasquez, and adding other works as we go.

Please forgive me if I’m making you motion sick with my herky jerky movements here, I’m learning. And I’m now painfully aware of our lack of ceiling problem as our Toulouse-Lautrec is half in and half out of the sunlight, which is really bad for drawings and will cause them to yellow and fade. If we go back to our inventory and look through building supplies I think we can find a ceiling, which you do have to purchase by the way.

But it’s worth it, because we must protect our artwork. And so now we can install a ceiling, and continue to move around our artworks until we have something that feels somewhat balanced. Now this would be an extremely useful tool for real-life curators to use, if you could load in whatever art you’re working with, and build or load in the space where the show is going to be.

Some museum curators still work with real life scale models, and others do plan their shows with 3D modeling software. But wouldn’t it be cool if any museum or collection could load their work into here and play this way? And then everybody else could experiment with that art, too?

I can’t bear it anymore, we must move our mound of butter to a better location…. There. And then we can look out over the open ocean and wonder why no one is coming to visit our gallery.

But before we figure that out, let’s work on our space a little more, adding to and adjusting our portrait gallery, and then figuring out how to expand up and out, building a second level. There are all sorts of different materials in the inventory, and different styles and surfaces. You can also change your avatar, but I don’t really want any of these.

And you can also change masks, which is what sets apart a bot from an actual human person playing the game. But these are all terrifying and we’re going to take a pass. Let’s find some building materials we actually like, like these Corbusier walls and windows, made from poured concrete and no doubt named after famed modern architect Le Corbusier, who did some pretty magical things with concrete in the buildings he designed.

And let’s pick up some handy demolition tools as well. Now let’s get rid of these awful orange stucco walls and replace them with these sweet new concrete walls, rotating them into place. Ah this feels better already.

This is not just an art game, but an architecture game as well. And it is SUPER fun to be able to put together a space like this with a few clicks here and there. No, welcome desk, you stay where you’re supposed to be.

GAH I’m so bad at this. And while I continue to renovate my gallery, and add some stairs so we can get to my mezzanine up there, I’m contemplating the mistakes museums often make when they expand too quickly, or plan massive renovations that they can’t afford or that don’t actually improve the experience with art one has there. And just like that we have a new space upstairs, where.

I’m going to hang a grouping of works DAISY helped me buy and what I’m thinking of as optically interesting or challenging works, including a couple of pointillist paintings by Seurat… a few others, including that little trompe l'oeil we bought earlier. And because this is all delightfully pretend, we don’t have to consider the challenge of hanging art on concrete walls. Okay, now I’m really ready to figure out how to open this place.

Let’s sell our under construction sign. That doesn’t work. So I guess I’ll go on a framing spree, and collect some more art while I’m at it.

Let’s have a collection of Henri Rousseau’s, why don’t we, now that I’ve found this “Artist” button where you can see more by a creator. You’ll likely recognize many of his jungle scenes, but the important note about them is that they’re made by an artist who never actually left France, and was a humble customs clerk who painted on the side until his retirement when he took it on full time. But there’s something extremely strange and surreal about his paintings, a mix of realism and eerie dreamscape, whether they’re common sights of Paris and its outskirts, or completely invented jungle scenes.

The artworks do seem to be getting more expensive as I’m buying more, regardless of their maker. Anyhoo, let’s make our wall of Rousseaus to really wow our visitors, if ever we figure out how to get them here. Now this is getting really fun, and I’m not sure of many places in the world where you could see a selection of works from the late 19th and early 20th century presented on an uber contemporary wall surface like this.

It makes me excited to experiment with older works in newer spaces, and newer works in older looking spaces. And if only framing were as easy in real life as it is in this game. And our Klint looks much better in it’s new home and frame over here.

But I’ve had it with this loneliness, guys, and I’ve got to figure out how to get some friends here. Let’s teleport out to see what others have done, and let’s just get placed randomly. Ah, ok wow, this place has a tremendous number of balustrades, doesn’t it.

And AHA. I am very helpfully being told that I can open other player’s galleries for them while they’re out. HOW DO I DO THAT?

Approach the front desk, click E and open the gallery. IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE? It looks like it is.

Well this has been a very enlightening trip out into the world, and now there are all of these visitors coming! Let’s take a quick look around here, being careful to avoid these treacherous pillars everywhere. Well this is an interesting and unusual arrangement of pictures, but ok.

Now that’s enough of that. Let’s teleport home! And we’re back, and let’s “USE” that desk.

WE DID IT! Louise is here already! Let’s type a little welcoming message and get this party started.

And when people come to the gallery, they leave you a nice little box, which are full of OWW units! Very exciting. The more you earn, the more art and building materials you can buy.

It just warms my wooden heart to see people here and enjoying the art, like Avelina here. I’ll go and see if she needs help. Eh, never mind.

She’s fine. I’ll just go back to the desk and collect visitor fees. Oh hey, Paola.

Hi! I know they’re bots, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated equally. But this is quite a bit like running an actual gallery, y’all, which was my job for several years myself.

You’re just kind of there, available when people want to chat, and but also not overly available, so you don’t scare off the introverts out there who just want to be left alone. But nobody ever left me boxes of money. Thanks, Takashi!

For our grand finale, and now that I actually have an audience and some income, let’s expand! I think what I’ll do is create a walkway across the lovely ocean here. And come to think of it, this view is really reminding me of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by architect Jean Nouvel, which was built off of an island and designed to look as if its floating.

We don’t have that kind of budget, but we’ll do what we can, and construct a little gallery here at the end where we can house one amazing artwork. Let’s go with this stunner by Gustav Klimt, a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, completed in 1907. The painting was stolen by the Nazis and displayed in the Galerie Belvedere in Vienna for many years, until it was returned to the Bloch-Bauer family in 2006.

They then sold it for $135 million dollars, and that buyer donated it to the Neue Galerie in New York, where you can see it today. Needless to say, this is a many storied artwork that can now exist in this digital space as well as it’s actual space, and can be enjoyed by countless others who can build their ideal viewing environment around it. Claudia just loves it.

But that’s really the beauty of this game. You can’t replicate the experience of being in the same room as these real-life artworks, but for the many of us who can’t get to them, or at least can’t yet, this is a really amazing substitute. The database can and should get larger and more international, but in the meantime there’s plenty to play with.

My work here isn’t done, but I suspect this could go on for some time. So download the game and come over and visit my gallery anytime you like. And make your own gallery and let us all know how to find it in the comments.

Monstrum is a new show from PBS Digital Studios about monsters, myth and lore. The show is written and hosted by Dr. Emily Zarka, who has a Ph.

D. in literature with a focus on monsters. Head to the link in the description to check out the show and find out the origins of iconic monsters, and what these creatures say about us. Thanks to all of our patrons for supporting the art assignment, especially our grandmaster of the arts Vincent Apa.