Robots get private view of major pop art show

LONDON (Reuters) - London’s Saatchi gallery is holding a private viewing for robots and humans, allowing people and machines to wander through the wacky world of pop artist Philip Colbert in a show designed to work both digitally and in real life.

The show displays work featuring Colbert’s cartoon lobster, the central character in his paintings and sculptures. Telepresence robots - remote-controlled robots on wheels with cameras and a tablet screen are on offer for those who don’t attend in person.

“I wanted to stage my exhibition opening using these telepresence robots as almost like a sci-fi vision of a possible future, where we have a telepresence robot which goes out into the world for us so we stay protected at home,” Colbert told Reuters.

“I felt that that was not only a way of making the show more accessible but also creating a more fantastical vision of the future... it is very possible that people could be physically required to be present and are not able [to be], so hence they have a robot presence somehow,” Colbert said.

Guests can tour the gallery in person or by booking a robot which they can then navigate through the space, zooming in and out on works exploring mass consumerism, contemporary culture and history.

“It’s quite incredible to be driving round Saatchi,” said Josh Corden, an artist and preview invitee. “I think it’s incredibly powerful,” he said from east London.

The idea for the show was born during lockdown isolation.

Auctioneer Simon de Pury attended the show through a telepresence robot which he controlled from his home in Monaco.

“This is a wonderful way of attending an auction preview or an exhibition preview. You can get close up to the artwork, you can have a look at it from near, from far and you get an idea of proportion so it’s a pretty cool way of looking at art.”

Reporting by Stuart McDill,; Editing by Alexandra Hudson