Museums and monuments around the world are genuinely magnificent art sights to behold. Seeing a building or a piece of art from times long before our civilization is a remarkable experience. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have these kinds of experiences due to their physical disabilities. While some museums hold online tours for people who cannot leave their houses, some countries have started making mini sculptures of their famous monuments and buildings for the visually impaired to “see” with their hands.
This trend roughly started with a museum in Madrid that started making 3D-printed representations of famous paintings for the half-blind in 2015. The museum named the exhibition “Touching the Prado.”
While the museum encouraged its visitors to touch and feel the 3D paintings and provided them with auditory guidance and braille texts, this exhibition inspired many other cities, museums, and artists all over the world.
Many major museums and galleries worldwide began building tactile versions of their most-celebrated artworks under the motto of “art for everyone.” The tactile works in the form of mini sculptures help the blind navigate their way around the piece and feel its shape, curves, and general structure.
Artists use different ways to build these mini sculptures. Some artists use a handheld scanner device that collects data and scans the shape of the piece. Later, the artist uses the data to make the sculpture as lifelike as possible.
Some artists, especially in Germany, use bronze to make the mini sculptures strong and durable so that the visually impaired can enjoy the art without worrying about breaking or damaging the sculptures.
Arguably, one of the most famous sculptors of this trend is the German sculptor Egbert Broerken. Broerken has made more than 120 mini sculptures of cities and monuments. He usually completes a piece in 1,5-2 years, casts it in bronze, and officials put the pieces near the original sites.
Unlike the scanner technique, Broerken takes extensive and detailed photos of the sites and builds the sculptures according to those. The reason why Broerken makes sculptures of the cities is that he wants to help the visually impaired get a sense of the city they live in.
Moreover, aside from the bronze ones, some artists make plastic sculptures as well. Thanks to these plastic ones, the visually impaired can dissect the art and feel each component as they like. In the end, whether they come in 3D, bronze, or plastic, tactile art is undeniably an important, inclusive, and helpful step for art lovers who are visually impaired.