Near Life: A 3D Exhibition

In collaboration with Studio Jester Blank, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin has created its first ever 3D tour of an exhibition. This novel, immersive 3D exhibition is based on Near Life: The Gipsformerei – 200 Years of Casting Plaster, which was held at the James-Simon-Galerie and closed in March 2020.

Visitors can move around the virtual exhibition space freely and explore the exhibition and its extraordinary objects as if they were really there. Additionally, 20 of the exhibits can be viewed in extra high-resolution 3D renderings.

The Exhibition as Immersive 3D Model

The exhibition Near Life: The Gipsformerei – 200 Years of Casting Plaster was digitised with the help of 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry technology. Through the three-dimensional imaging of the roughly 650-square-metre special exhibition space in the James-Simon-Galerie, which was rendered from some 3,000 different perspective points, the more than 200 exhibits can be viewed from all sides. The immersive 3D tour is accompanied by texts providing contextual information about the objects.

How Does It Work?

  • By double-clicking anywhere in the space you can select a rotation point.
  • By scrolling you can move toward or away from this point, and zoom in on objects and back out again.
  • Holding the left mouse button you can tilt and rotate the view.
  • By holding the right button you can move the view left and right, up and down.
  • By clicking on the numbered navigation points from 1 to 34, you can take a kind of guided tour through the space.
  • Some of the navigation points have links that take you to high-resolution renderings of individual objects, as well as audio and written content.

Recommended Browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Edge

3D Renderings of Individual Exhibits

The extra high-resolution renderings of the exhibits include the shellacked plaster models of life-size sculptures from the collection of the Gipsformerei, such as the Laocoön and Princess Groups, or a nearly three-metre-long crocodile, as well as groups of objects on the theme of death masks or the sensitive casts from colonial contexts. There are also a number of contemporary artworks that can be explored up close, by artists such as Asta Gröting, George Segal and Allan McCollum. When viewing these individual renderings, the virtual visitors are accompanied by an audio-guide that has been produced especially for the exhibition – a multi-vocal sound collage that provides a range of perspectives on the themes.

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gipsformerei, 3D rendering, virtual exhibition, post-production: Studio Jester Blank, 2020


Master model, 1892
Plaster, shellacked,
290 x 95 x 32 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gipsformerei, R-06580

This plaster crocodile also belongs to the collection of the Berlin Gipsformerei. It was cast directly from the deceased animal. The 3D rendering shows the animal’s armoured skin in the most exquisite detail. And if you dare, you can take a look into the jaws of this impressive reptile.

© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 3D rendering, virtual exhibition, post-production: Studio Jester Blank, 2020

Auguste Rodin: The Age of Bronze, 1875–76

Plaster, 181 x 66 x 77 cm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Skulpturensammlung, 1738 (Abg.-ZV 1885)

This cast is of a work by the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin. It is at once a cast of an original and an artwork in its own right. From up close, you can make out not only the liveliness and natural air of its young subject, but also numerous casting seams.

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gipsformerei, 3D rendering, virtual exhibition, post-production: Studio Jester Blank, 2020

Laocoön Group

Master model, 1844
Plaster, shellacked, 242 x 184 x 100 cm
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gipsformerei, R-00263
(Original: 1st century  BCE, Vatican Museums, Rome)

This historical model of the famous Laocoön Group exhibits a unique patina. The surface is stained with deeply engrained soot. In the 3D rendering, you can even view this work – which in the exhibition space sits atop a tall plinth – from above.

© Asta Gröting / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020 / 3D rendering, virtual exhibition, post-production: Studio Jester Blank, 2020

Asta Gröting: Acker (Field), 2013

Epoxy resin, 24 carat gold, 206 x 216 x 50 cm
Galerie carlier | gebauer, Berlin, AG/2012/scu/10400

This golden piece of earth is also a cast. If you look at this work by Asta Gröting from a worm’s-eye view, you can imagine the ploughed soil in Oderbruch that forms the basis for this artwork.

Preview of Other 3D Renderings

You can see more 3D renderings of objects from the exhibition in the Sketchfab account of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

For technical reasons, it was not possible to produce high-resolution renderings of all the exhibits. You can find photos and explanatory texts for all the works in the exhibition catalogue.

3D rendering, virtual exhibition, post-production: Studio Jester Blank (Jens Blank, Philipp Jester)

Curator, texts and concept: Veronika Tocha
Audio-guide: Martin Baer (script and direction), Oliver Brod (audio and sound-design)
Translation of object texts: Otmar Binder; proofreading: Laura Preston
Exhibition design: Schroeder Rauch (Mira Schröder, Nicolas Rauch)