Although the digital age has made it easier than ever to see the world's greatest art in vivid detail, nothing yet compares to the experience of witnessing it yourself in a museum or gallery. Sure, you can browse books and websites about the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel, but they don't hold a candle to standing in the buildings themselves. From school field trips to couples on first dates, art exhibitions are a unique visual experience.
The only problem is how to appreciate them when you don’t have full visual acuity. Even with the most detailed of audio guides, a blind person will only walk away with a vague impression of a piece of art. Well, one museum in Spain is using 3-D printing to make art available for those who can’t see it – and it requires breaking one of the art world’s well-known rules.
"Do not touch" has been one of the most steadfast rules for visitors to businesses and exhibits the world over. From museums to zoos, guests are told early and often to appreciate the work from a respectable distance. But at the very least, the average guest is able to visually absorb what is around them.
In order to make some of the world’s most famous art pieces accessible to the blind, the Museo del Prado in Spain has used 3-D printed versions of the art to create the braille equivalent of paintings. The museum has 3-D printed works of Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, and even Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa".
With the versatility of each piece – including the equal attention paid to both visual color and physical texture – the experiment is also popular with both the visually-impaired and the visually proficient. Spanish collegiates have found the experiment a refreshing new take on art appreciation, and the blind have begun to regard it as a missing link in their experiencing popular art in a way others take for granted.
The museum will be running the experiment until June 28 and there are no specific plans for running the experiment again. Nevertheless, 3-D printing has once again proven to be an invaluable tool in making accessible what was previously thought impossible to the human experience.