How the Nuna Gallery came to be

A modern art section in Nuna circumnavigates the gallery and the globe. A selection of contemporary Japanese artworks in the foreground leads the virtual explorer to European, American, African, Australasian, Middle Eastern, and Asian art, circling back to this location. (Image courtesy Nuna Gallery)

Big things grow from small things. Sometimes a couple of small things collide and merge and grow into a really big thing.

I recall first stepping into virtual reality some years ago, into Second Life, and thinking “What the…?”

From that very first exposure, looking through the eyes of an avatar, I had an intuition that has nagged me ever since. I understood virtual reality to be an incredibly elegant solution… but I couldn’t fathom what problem it was solving.

Virtual reality is often referred to as a game but there is no goal or end game, no task or quest, no strategy, no rigid system of rules; there are no moves to make or foes to defeat. It’s pretty much how it labels itself, an alternative reality, where life… just… goes… on…

And yet, virtual reality does a few unexpected things incredibly well. It makes you a member of an international community; it invites you to experience things that have fallen directly out of people’s imaginations; it allows artists and musicians to engage and entertain a far-flung public. It is a place where you can dream with your eyes open!

That thought was one of my two small things. The other came from serendipity. One day, out in the hypergrid, I wandered into a small virtual art gallery compiled by Cherry Manga. She collected a few surrealist objects and sculptures that she invited people to copy. I love surrealism. Well, I love abstract art too… and Dada, of course. Oh, and Impressionism. I’ve been known to cry in front of Van Gogh. And I swoon over the sculptures and paintings of the Renaissance. And I’m quite keen on the Pre-Raphaelites, Hyperrealism and… did I mention indigenous art from Australia, Polynesia, the Americas, Indonesia, Japan…? You get the idea. The term ‘art nerd’ applies to this virtual unit’s driver. So. I duly copied a dozen of her pieces.

Then I needed somewhere to put them. These are works that live naturally in an art gallery where they can feed off—and inform—one another. I needed one of those gallery things.

The internal architecture of Nuna is open and airy for easy avatar navigation of the gallery. There are vantage points throughout the gallery for viewing other floors from above and below. (Image courtesy Nuna Gallery)

It was around about then that the first small thing collided with the second small thing. I didn’t need a gallery at all. I needed a Gallery. This wasn’t about housing a few sculptures, it was about creating something altogether new. Something that could not be built on dry land where location and politics and parochialism all play a part. It needed international waters. It needed to be free and accessible. It needed to be an adventure.

I wanted a Wow! structure to house an extended essay on art—an essay that begins at the beginning, with a woman placing her hand on a rock wall and using a blow tube and pigment to record its outline. It moves to tribal artists painting herds of auroch, bison, deer, and the hunting patterns of lions, on the ceilings of dark caves, lying on ad hoc scaffolds and working under torchlight, much like Michelangelo painting the stories from the Bible on the ceiling of the Sistine. And it finishes with Jean-Michel Basquiat bombing paint on subway walls, and Banksy stenciling girls holding balloons onto buildings. Connective tissue is everywhere in art. It all ties together into a picture where we only ever see the tiniest details and are often left scratching our heads. And of course it never finishes. It’s a journey without an end, through human creativity and what it means to be human.

Nuna is a massive virtual art gallery. It tackles all these themes and more. It sits on a three-by-three variable-sized region in 3rd Rock Grid and the main gallery building has the footprint of an entire sim that rises through five levels. There’s a sculpture park at ground level, modern art on level 1, classicism to romanticism on level 2, prehistoric and ethnic art on level three, and the penthouse galleries are dedicated to themed temporary exhibitions by professional artists where we hold exhibition openings, workshops, and other events. There are satellite galleries currently being planned and a sound sculpture floats in the sky.

The gallery towers over a botanical parkland setting. To house an ever growing permanent collection, satellite galleries are in planning that will connect to the main building via walkways and forest trails. (Image courtesy Nuna Gallery)

But, there is no fan art or derivative work in this gallery. Its collection represents the finest artistic achievements of our species. Every work is carefully chosen, fully annotated with an explanation of its origins and with informed, accessible, art history analysis. These wonderful artworks are unpacked. The Nuna collection is curated. It places each artwork into a movement and each movement into a context, a thread that you can follow to make sense of it all. This is a huge adventure for anyone with any curiosity about art.

But wait, there’s more…

Nuna is actively seeking — and negotiating — real-world collaborations with academic institutions.

We have a supporting website with news, information, reviews, criticism and essays from contributing writers and an interactive map for finding your way around the gallery.

We have a Facebook presence and a group you can join to stay abreast of new exhibitions and gallery news.

We have a gift shop on Level 1 where everything is free —  sculptures, posters, Nuna branded clothing, and Nuna art books that highlight various collections, designed and written by our staff.

We have NPC tour guides that can accompany you through the gallery, offering insights into specific works and artists.

We have dazzling architecture: an open layout for easy avatar camming and a lift system made by Astro Balut which is its own artwork.

Nuna is a game-changer for OpenSim. It couldn’t exist in Second Life because of the cost structure there — the upload costs of thousands of paintings and mesh sculptures alone would break the most expansive budget)

It couldn’t exist in real life because of the cost and geopolitical structure there. It exploits what is special and unique about our iteration of virtual reality in OpenSim. Come look for yourself.

The Nuna Gallery officially opens at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, December 15. Hypergrid yourself to the 3rd Rock Grid Welcome Centre at grid.3rdrockgrid.com:8002 and follow the white rabbit…

The exhibition currently running in Penthouse 1 is ‘Intimate Topographies’, paintings and multimedia works where the artist takes a cartographical approach to nude studies. The three works shown are:Intertidal III: Spring Tide, Precession of the Equinoxes, and Ghost of Summer. (Image courtesy Nuna Gallery)

What’s in a name?

Nuna — a landmass also known as Columbia — was one of Earth’s ancient supercontinents. It existed approximately 2,500 to 1,500 million years ago in the Paleoproterozoic Era.

Supercontinents are a clustering of continental landmasses. They are geological moments when the whole world is in one place, a metaphor that was irresistible to Nuna’s creators.

Alia Soulstar

Alia is a freelance designer, writer and professional artist who lives in New Zealand. In virtual reality, she is a content creator and co-owner of Satori Guitars and curator of the Nuna Gallery. Follow the gallery on Facebook.
Alia Soulstar

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