Artist Cosmo Wenman is using his 3D printer to create copies of famous antiquities and artworks in plastic. For the last year Cosmo has been 3D scanning artwork in museums to create 3D printed versions which he hopes will help make them more accessible to the public.
After visiting an artwork in a museum and taking hundreds of photos of it from various angles he uses a special piece of software to create the 3D file that gets sent to his MakerBot Replicator 3D printer.
The Replicator printer is limited in the size of pieces that it can print, so for larger artworks Cosmo has to print it in many separate pieces that are bonded together. A life size horse head, copies of “Head of a Horse of Selene”, is made from 29 separate pieces and weighs several pounds. The original is in the British Museum (part of the Elgin Marbles) and was originally on the Parthenon in Athens.
To make the white plastic copies more realistic they can be treated with a bronze and brass patina finish.
The 3D printed artworks are bringing them to people who may never get a chance to see the originals and he has already shown the horse head at the CES Show in Las Vegas.
“It is now possible to mass digitize sculptural art. People will download what they want and love, and what they want other people to see,” says Wenman.
Wenman is hoping that art lovers can take his 3D scans and “remix” the art in their own way, thus creating new artworks in a similar way to sampling in music.
He is careful to only copy artwork where the artist is long dead so that any copyright issues are avoided. These artworks are considered in the public domain and through Wenmans work with museums they can become available to the public in a new way. Museums are now starting to 3D scan their artworks as well as using 2D photography to digitize them. But this process will take a long time. For example, The Smithsonian has 137 million objects in their collection and only 2% are ever on public view at any one time. They are currently scanning 14 million pieces as a priority, but the process is laborious without any automated scanning method.
3D printed artworks have many uses, from teaching art appreciation and art history in the classroom, for historical research, to even helping museums create copies of objects that have to be returned to their original owners. You could also print your favorite artwork for display in your own home.
Many of the 3D models of the artwork that Wenman has scanned can be found on Thingiverse.