A man had to be rescued by the London Fire Brigade after getting lost while taking part in a virtual museum tour. As museums worldwide have had to shut their doors to help fight the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), many institutions have instead put their creative efforts into online engagement with the public, including providing a plethora of virtual tours of their collections and exhibitions. Unfortunately, in some cases, not enough attention has been paid to the visitor experience.
The man, who is now safe and well, but prefers not to be named, tells The Art Newspaper, “I use social media all the time, and I’m a big fan of my Macbook, but I’d never taken part in a virtual tour of a museum”. An avid gallery-goer, he had been self-isolating in his large south London home, and comments: “I have really been missing going to shows, so I downloaded some new software and off I went!”
The man says that he had checked out works in the collections of London’s Tate Modern and New York’s Museum of Modern Art before embarking on a virtual tour of the State Tretyakov Gallery collection. But things took a turn for the worse. A fan of the artist Anish Kapoor, he says: “I was looking for Malevich’s Black Square, as I had heard that the online version used a pixel pigmentation that might be darker than the blackest black, called Vantablack.” Kapoor has been working for several years on creating sculptures using the “blackest material in the universe”, which he plans to exhibit at the Galléria dell'Academia during the 2021 Venice Biennale.
“Once I was in [the virtual gallery] I couldn’t get out. It was scary”, he says. “I am so grateful to the fireman who braved the online experience to rescue me.” The Peckham fire station manager James Skilling says in a statement: “We sent a two-man team to attend to a minor incident last night in the Camberwell area. The man, in his 60s, was found safe and well, but a little bit embarrassed.”
By an enormous coincidence, the man is related to a person who had a similarly disturbing experience a couple of year’s ago. “A few years back, a distant relative of mine—and a fellow Anish Kapoor fan—tripped into one the artist’s works and needed rescuing.” Indeed, in 2018 a man at the Serralves museum in Porto fell into one of the Kapoor’s installations, a 2.5m-deep hole aptly called Descent into Limbo (1992).