How Animal Crossing Became An Unlikely Art Haven During The Pandemic


The first months of Emilie Dujour’s quarantine seemed pretty typical.

I mean, he spent a lot of time playing Animal crossing.

The latest installment of the life simulation game was released on March 20 and became a instant success. The game sold more than 22 million copies in the first in months, making it the second most popular title ever developed for the Nintendo Switch console.

Dujour, manager of public relations and digital communications at San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) He played the game as a fan at first. Then his interest turned professional.

SAMA, like almost every other art gallery in the US, closed its doors at the beginning of closing. With the museum closed for a couple of months, Dujour began talking to his co-workers about a solution.

‘We want to be part of that’

In April, Animal Crossing added a new feature allowing players to open their own art gallery. Dujour and his coworkers began to have ideas.

“I asked my co-worker, ‘Would you be interested to see if we can add some of the artwork from our collection?’” Dujour said. And she absolutely loved it. She started working on it ASAP. “

SAMA loaded some of its pieces into the game, which users can access by scanning a quick response code on the museum website. From there, they can view a selection of the gallery’s artwork safely at home, all from the comfort of their Nintendo Switch.

Credit: San Antonio Museum of Art

Credit: San Antonio Museum of Art

SAMA was not the only gallery to make the leap to Animal Crossing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is the largest art museum in the US, launched its own massive collection working in the game.

The Met has a catalog of over 400,000 pieces available online, many of which can be loaded directly into the game. That means Animal crossing players can decorate their virtual island with anything from Van Gogh “Self-portrait with straw hat“To Katsushika Hokusai”The great wave. “

Dujour said that for SAMA, the virtual exhibits were an opportunity to connect with their customers even when the museum was closed. More importantly, it helped them participate in a massive cultural phenomenon.

“We are a museum that shares art for people to enjoy and be inspired by, and we believe that if, right now, you spend a lot of time at Animal Crossing because you can’t go anywhere else, then, well, we want to be a part of that.” , He said.

Since then, SAMA has reopened its galleries (how has the Met), but the Animal Crossing versions from both museums remain. In a way, its accessibility is a form of democratization, bringing art to people on their screens, wherever they live.

‘It was really amazing’

That democratization not only helps art fans, it also helps creators. During the pandemic, independent artists They have also taken up the game to host their own shows, taking their work to a whole new medium and many new fans.

Ask Stephanie Unger. The UK resident artist has won tons of commission requests, and even a DM of actress Brie Larson, since she started sharing her work on the game.

Unger was one of the first artists to host a gallery within Animal Crossing, and the decision seems to have paid off. Illustrator said Lecture In Progress that he expected “at least eight people” to appear on his virtual show. Instead, she was overwhelmed with requests to join her program.

“There was a continuous stream of people coming to see the exhibition throughout the night,” he said. “I didn’t think I would need to keep it open after 9pm as planned, but I did. I also didn’t think I would need to keep it open all the next day, but I did too! Honestly, it was amazing, it surprised me. “

Artist based in Amsterdam Timo Kuilder he was an equally early adopter. The illustrator, who has worked with The New Yorker, The New York Times and Vogue, hosted a show that generated many ecstatic reactions on social media.

“My first solo show,” Kuilder jokingly captioned an Instagram post about the show.

Kuilder told In The Know that he came up with the idea to create an in-game gallery after some jobs “failed” at the start of the pandemic. It was more of a joke than anything else, which made the response that much more surprising.

“It was just a joke that I put on Twitter, but people got really excited and asked me to share the artwork with them,” said Kuilder. “Or they wanted to visit my island to see the exhibition for themselves.”

The reaction surprised him, but it never went beyond that. As Kuilder points out, there is a difference between getting exposure for your work and selling it.

“I don’t think it’s a real source of income, and the excitement around the game has also subsided a bit,” he said. “But doing something original with your work can definitely help you have more eyes.”

Credit: Timo Kuilder

Credit: Timo Kuilder

Many of these programs took place at the beginning of the pandemic and, like so many other things in 2020, it is difficult to know if they will become part of our “new normal.”

Dujour, for her part, said she wasn’t sure whether the Animal Crossing gallery would permanently change the way SAMA shares its art. However, he said the museum is constantly looking for new and unconventional ways to engage people.

“We always try to reach a different audience and make art interesting for everyone,” he said. “So I think we are always looking for things like that that we can share with people who don’t think of a museum as a fun place.”

The SAMA experiment was, from any point of view, a resounding success. Dujour said the museum received countless poignant reactions from her community, and for a year like this, that might be enough.

“We believe that art gives you strength when you feel bad and I think that, during the pandemic, we just wanted to encourage people,” he added.

If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on why FarmVille finally closing.

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