The U.K.’s First Permanent Immersive Digital Art Gallery Will Open Next Year With a Show of A.I. Space Imagery, Courtesy of NASA

Dec 14, 2021

The U.K. is getting its first permanent immersive digital art gallery. The space, which opens in Coventry in April 2022, arrives as experiential light shows like the Van Gogh Experience are drawing millions of visitors around the globe. Eager to get in on the action, local officials and the national government are backing The Reel Store, which will occupy the former home of the Coventry Evening Telegraph newspaper.

The Reel Store’s inaugural exhibition will present a project by the fast-rising digital art star Refik Anadol. The show, “Machine Memoirs: Space,” is the product of a long-term collaboration with NASA. Its arrival coincides with Coventry’s term as the U.K. City of Culture and the host of this year’s Turner Prize exhibition.

To create the work, Anadol uses A.I. to sort and analyze two million publicly available images of space taken by NASA satellites, telescopes, and the International Space Station. Then, his A.I. produces new digital interpretations of the furthest reaches of outer space. The resulting imagery will be presented in a “360 cinematic experience” accompanied by “3D audio,” according to organizers.

“‘Machine Memoirs: Space’ invites us to dream of an alternative universe where machines collaborate with humans to speculate our existence and create an alternative future,” the artist said in a statement. “This is a hopeful future where machines and humanity, in combination, are agents for healing.”

The Telegraph Hotel, home of The Reel Store. Courtesy The Telegraph Hotel

The Reel Store takes its name from the building’s former life (newspaper reels were stored there before being printed). The postwar building is typical of the 1960s architecture that comprises much of Coventry’s city center. The gallery will house a spatially adaptive sound system and an 800-square-meter (8,610-square-foot) fixed projection mapping canvas with 14 4K laser projectors.

While many emerging artists are working with NFTs, non-commercial spaces with the capacity to display their technically demanding work are few and far between. The support for the gallery, which has the backing of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and Coventry City Council, is a testament to authorities’ growing belief that such projects can serve as an economic engine for a region.

“The key for me,” said David Welsh, a cabinet member in charge of the arts at Coventry City Council, “is that although we know it will be a fabulous attraction for visitors, all of our communities in Coventry will also have a completely unique arts venue on their doorstep.”