La Jollan is helping the museum’s art auction move online by creating a virtual tour

To bring the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art’s fundraising art auction into the digital world, La Jollan and virtual tour provider Sam Simmons used a tool typically reserved for real estate or planning and design: a Matterport Pro 2 camera.

The biennial art auction, which would normally be held in person, is online this year as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Matterport Pro 2 takes a series of photos to create a digital scan of a space, similar to how developers map a building for renderings.

For the MCASD Art Auction, Simmons created a virtual tour by holding the camera in front of each piece of art being auctioned and performing high-resolution scans that stitch all the photos together using a method called photogrammetry. It integrated 360 panoramic photos in a 3D environment to create an interactive visual experience.

The virtual tour takes viewers inside the gallery space, where pieces are staged as they would be if viewed in person. From there, the room can be digitally walked around to see each room up close and from different angles. The auctioned works are visible until Thursday, October 15 and the auctions for the silent auction are already online at

“You’re going to see each piece of art as it would look in real life, in high definition as if you were really there,” Simmons said. “You can see the galleries without being there in person. It’s the next best thing to being there.

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La Jollan Sam Simmons has created a virtual tour of the art auction at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art.


In addition to viewing coins in a gallery from all angles, photogrammetry provides touchpoints for information, such as the coin’s artist and suggested value.

Unlike a video tour, the self-guided interactive tour allows viewers to “focus on different locations or items. You might want to pay attention to a certain piece of art or view it from a certain angle, and because it’s a photo, you can stop and pause,” Simmons said. “That’s why this technology goes so well with galleries…you can look up, look down, immerse yourself and see it at your own pace.”

Kathryn Kanjo, Director of David C. Copley and Managing Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, said the auction provides “an insight into the art world and who we care about as an art institution. “, and adapts to provide it. as important as ever.

“The art auction has been our biggest fundraiser for decades; we hold it every two years,” she said. “There are 95 works in the auction and about half are by regional Southern California artists. [There is] a price range from $500 to $50,000. There are emerging artists, and then there are also legendary figures.

The virtual tour provides insight beyond what one would get from a catalog.

“We wanted to contextualize the artwork to scale and from room to room,” Kanjo said. “Take, for example, the part that is used on the cover of the catalog [Helen Pashgian’s ‘Untitled’ sculpture]. You can see it and you think you know what six inches in diameter looks like, but that’s not the same as seeing it on a pedestal. It helps to better understand the scale. It gave us a cross-room conversation, which is huge for the museum world.

“We always try to foster a connection between the audience and the art object,” she added. “Being able to collect work may seem out of reach, but it can be done. Events like our auction can bring art closer to your life. It sets up the possibility for our public to live with the work of art; it’s a way to start collecting or to dive deeper into your collection.

After seeing how virtual technology could be used in an art gallery setting, it could survive beyond the COVID era, Simmons said.

“You will never replace in-person viewing,” he said. “But if there is a gallery opening in Paris or Dubai or another state, you may not have the resources to go there, and it may open as an art gallery with this technology. This is about expansion, and we want as many eyes on the art as possible. It really helps to raise awareness of artists and helps small galleries [reach] a global audience.

The silent auction is open until October 15. The live auction will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 14.

Learn more, take the virtual tour and bid on

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