Rodin’s Thinker 3D Scan Access Effort
For two years I’ve been trying to gain access to 3D scans of Rodin’s Thinker, which is a work in the public domain. My inquiries with the Baltimore Museum of Art revealed careless access policies and unresponsive decision makers there, and lead me to a confrontation with the Rodin Museum in Paris over its self-serving copyfraud.
In November, 2018 I sent a formal demand to the Rodin Museum for access to all its 3D scans, citing French freedom of information laws. When they refused to comply, I brought the matter before the French government.
On June 21, 2019 the government announced its first-of-its-kind opinion, in my favor; 3D scans produced by French national museums are administrative documents subject to public disclosure under freedom of information laws. The Rodin Museum is required by law to give the public access to its 3D scans of Rodin’s works. This development will influence every national museum in France, inform policies at institutions around the world, and have interesting effects on the art market.
My complete correspondence with The Baltimore Museum of Art and Musée Rodin, including the government’s opinion and additional resources, is collected here:
20190718 Cosmo Wenman, Rodin’s Thinker 3D Scan Access Effort
(I’ll update this document with additional correspondence as it occurs.)
The first media coverage of this development, in NextINpact.com: Le scan 3D du Penseur de Rodin est un document administratif communicable (6/24/2019) [Download PDF of English translation]
Please contact me for original copies of any of the documents included above, or for related images to accompany any stories.
I produced two bronze plaques and a stainless steel sculpture for the Phillip and Patricia Frost Science Museum’s Feathers to the Stars exhibit on the history of flight.
The 18” bas relief bronze plaques depict aerospace pioneer Otto Lilienthal and his 1894 glider, and a Mosquito XE experimental helicopter and its designer, John Uptigrove. The 19” stainless steel sculpture is a scale model of a Northrup F-5B “Freedom Fighter” fighter jet. [continue reading]
I manufactured this seven foot-long sculpture for Hong Kong-based artist Samson Young, whose installation, Songs for Disaster Relief, is Hong Kong’s entry in the 2017 Biennale art festival in Venice, Italy. This sculpture is the centerpiece of the Hong Kong pavilion.
Young’s design uses as its digital foundation my own high-resolution 3D scan of the famous ancient Greek sculpture, Winged Victory, the Nike of Samothrace. Grafted onto the goddess Nike are intricate digital sculpts of the philosopher Pythagoras, a space station, and a bust of Ronald Reagan.
I was hired as a consultant on this complex digital design, and to digitally prepare it for large-scale 3D printing. I 3D printed the sculpture in multiple nylon segments, assembled the pieces, and gave them a patinated bronze finish. The final piece is one of the largest 3D printed works of art ever made. Design prep, 3D printing, final assembly, and finishing were completed in 60 days.
This project was sponsored by the M+ Museum of Visual Culture, Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. The sculpture is on display in Venice through November 2017.
My replica of the 1st-century A.D. marble relief from Roman Libya, Three Dancing Nymphs, is shown above on the first day of its installation at the Frank Lloyd Wright Hollyhock House in Hollywood, California.
The Hollyhock House was Wright’s first project in Los Angeles; it is now a museum and a candidate for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original marble relief was the most important piece in the Hollyhock House’s original owner’s art collection, and was the last major feature missing from the house’s recent restoration back to its original 1920s decor—in the photo below, the photograph in the upper right corner from the 1920s is one of the few references showing where the original was located. Now that it is on permanent display in the loggia, my replica will be the first thing to greet museum visitors.
I directed and produced the 3D scanning of the original at the Getty Center in May, 2016. I used that data to robotically mill a slab of plaster, then hand carved additional details and hand painted it to look like marble. After its installation, the curator of the Hollyhock House sent me a nice note, writing, “from start to finish you have made an amazing copy. The file scans… to the milling and adjusting process, to the coloring all came together in a most amazing manner. The result is rather like perfection. I think our visitors, without really knowing, will instinctively know this too.”
The original marble is thought to be a Roman copy of a lost Greek original. It is owned by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and is on long-term loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It is installed in the Getty Center’s West Pavilion alongside 17th-century neoclassical sculptures, illustrating the interplay between old and new—originals and their derivatives, copies and their inspirations. It’s a process of iteration that is thousands of years old and now extends, again, to the Hollyhock House.
This project was done in cooperation with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation, which operates the Hollyhock House.
I will post more photos and video of how I made this piece soon.
This is my presentation from March 8, 2016, at the REAL2016 conference on 3D scanning.
My talk was about how people have made use of the scans I’ve shared, and on museums that aren’t sharing their 3D data.
Update March 15, 2016: After this investigation was reported by multiple news outlets, including Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, Instapundit, The Daily Dot, Kotaku, Digital Trends, Fusion, Gizmodo, Hyperallergic, Mentalfloss, BoingBoing, and ARTFIXdaily, on March 10, 2016 The New York Times published a follow-up story: Nefertiti 3-D Scanning Project in Germany Raises Doubts. -CW
The New York Times’ March 1, 2016 story “Swiping a Priceless Antiquity … With a Scanner and a 3-D Printer” by Charly Wilder tells how two German artists made a surreptitious, unauthorized 3D scan of the iconic bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin.
The artists, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, make a case for repatriating artifacts to their native countries and use Nefertiti as their focal point. They also point out that the Neues Museum has made its own high-quality 3D scan of the bust, and that the museum should share that data with the public. As a protest, they released their own scan to the public, and the quality of their scan is extraordinary.
The story has received a great deal of attention and Al-badri and Nelles have earned much praise for their efforts to digitally repatriate important cultural artifacts. Unfortunately, there are serious problems with their story and The Times’ account. [continue reading]
I’ve recently started offering 3D printed jewelry adaptations of a bunch of my 3D scans on Etsy, in a variety of materials—bronze, silver, gold, and more.
I’ve also listed several of my larger, one-of-a-kind 3D printed sculptures. Check them out at etsy.com/shop/CosmoWenmanDesign
The New York Times calls the J. Paul Getty Museum’s current exhibit of 40 ancient bronzes, Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World “one of the best exhibitions of sculpture you may ever see.”
For the Los Angeles leg of its tour, the exhibit featured the life-size Seated Boxer. But when it came time for the exhibit to move to Washington, D.C., the Vatican recalled the Boxer to Rome, so it could be displayed in conjunction with 2016 Jubilee festivities.
The Getty curators filled the Boxer’s vacancy with the Dancing Faun of Pompeii, which was loaned from the Naples Archaeological Museum.
Judging from press accounts, the Faun has stolen the show. That should come as no surprise, though.
“One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn’t. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing. Can you feel it? … You can’t. You can’t tell which is which. There’s no ‘mystical plasmic presence,’ no ‘aura’ around it.” —Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle
This Slate story, What Was the Venus de Milo Doing With Her Arms? by Virginia Postrel describes a fun project she hired me to work on–designing and 3D printing a restoration of Venus de Milo’s missing arms, showing her holding tools, spinning thread in the ancient technique.
I started with my own 3D capture of Venus de Milo–the most accurate 3D model of Venus de Milo in existence, which I made from an 1850 plaster cast by the Louvre’s own atelier that is now housed at the Skulpturhalle Basel museum.
Curious if the Smithsonian had any notable unpublished 3D scans, and how they are prioritizing their digitization efforts, I sent their Office of General Counsel a records request.
I was looking for Rodins, Degas, Bugattis, and more. Here’s what I found: bit.ly/1FYnJ6Y
I’ve posted an online adaptation of my recent presentation to the California Association of Museum’s 2015 conference panel on access.
I advocate that museums begin freely publishing the many archival-quality 3D scans they’ve been accumulating for over a decade, but have not been sharing. I list examples of of the world’s cultural heritage that have already been digitized, but are currently locked up inside museums’ and universities’ research labs.
I’ve put together this Pinterest board collecting photos people have posted online of their 3D prints of the 3D scans I’ve published online. Over 100,000 downloads to date, and countless prints all over the world. I’d venture to guess that the 2,500-year-old Acropolis Kore 678, for example, has only ever taken physical form in Japan as a 3D print of my scan.
This Slate article by Ariel Bogle talks about my work in the context of Augustana College and the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota committing copyfraud by purporting to have a copyright interest in a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s Moses: Good News: Replicas of 16th-Century Sculptures Are Not Off-Limits for 3-D Printers
What a work for a college and city government’s legal counsel to get wrong—not just Moses, but Moses holding the law.
“Although he is now a god, he is still the same lovable young man we’ve always known. I can attest to that. And to enable his relationships with all of us to continue exactly as they were, he has decided, for convenience, to retain his mortal form. Oh and by the way his sister Drusilla’s become a godess. Any questions?” —Macro, in the BBC’s I, Claudius
This is my 3D capture of the Getty’s head of Caligula, which I photographed in November 2012 at the Getty Villa.
For my own Caligula copy, I modified the original by digitally cutting out its eyes, designing a fractured, ragged edge around its neck and hollowing the whole thing out. I printed a life-size copy in PLA, and used it as a pattern for lost-PLA bronze casting–burning the PLA directly instead of wax. This was my first large-scale experiment with lost-PLA casting, and it turned out very, very well.
I patinated the result to make it look like a long-lost artifact.
Speaking of ancient history, I photographed this piece for 3D over two years ago. It’s getting increasingly frustrating to keep publishing museums’ pieces before they do, even at the slow pace I’m working. Am I really going to publish a decent-quality 3D model of the Getty Kouros or the Getty Bronze before the Getty itself does?
If you know someone-who-knows-someone at the Getty who can encourage them to start making some noise in this field… It would be great to see the Getty take the lead from the Smithsonian.
Click here to download the 3D-printable files: thingiverse.com/thing:196059
“© 1982 MMA”—Inscription by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
This 3D capture was made from a marble resin cast molded directly from the Pietà. A label on the back of the cast reads:
“This facsimile copy is authorized by the Vatican Museums. It is produced under the supervision of the Reproduction Studio of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from direct impression molds of the original sculpture developed by the Department of Scientific Research of the Vatican Museums.”
I imagine the Vatican and Met took a great deal of care making these molds and casts, and as a good cast is extremely accurate, this model may be the most faithful digital copy of Mary available to the public until the Vatican freely publishes their own 3D survey of the Pietà–if and when that ever happens.
The copyright notice the Met scrawled into the back would be funny if it weren’t so problematic. Michelangelo’s work is so clearly in the public domain that it’s hard to imagine what legitimate purpose the Met could have had in mind.
No one has a copyright in Michelangelo’s work, and IP is screwed up enough without people who should know better making nonsensical or careless claims that chill and thwart the free use of public domain works.
Download the files at http://thingiverse.com/thing:196060
The lines are drawn, the orders are in,
The Dance Commander’s ready to sin.
Radio message from HQ;
Dance Commander, we love you.
—Electric Six, Dance Commander
The Dancing Faun was discovered on October 26, 1830 in the ruins of the most opulent Roman home discovered at Pompeii: the House of the Faun, as it later became known, which was also home to the Alexander Mosaic. The Faun is thought to be either a 2nd-century Greek original, or a very high-quality Roman copy.
Upon its discovery, as Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny write in Taste and the Antique, “The fame of this small bronze was instantaneous … its first cataloger described it as the finest bronze to have been excavated at Pompeii and compared it to the Barberini Faun.”
Its small size made it ideal for reproduction and for decorating gardens and drawing rooms. Victorians raved about the Faun, no doubt with assurances like that from the Naples museum, which advised that “the Faun was ecstatic and not in the intoxicated condition of various other bronze Fauns from Herculaneum and Pompeii…”
“Ecstatic,” indeed. All that’s missing from the original work are glowsticks and a phat electronic beat.
I laser scanned a 19th-century plaster cast of the Faun at the Skulpturhalle Basel museum. His hair needed some digital resculpting to restore loss of detail in the plaster and to restore two broken fingers on his left hand.
I’m going to use this data to cast a 1:1 copy in bronze, the first of its kind. It’ll be for sale; if you know anyone who might be interested, please send them my way. Glowsticks optional.
Click here to download the 3D-printable files: thingiverse.com/thing:196048
I’m publishing this work as an example for my application for the Tate IK Prize 2015. My project—Tate Britain Unbound—would digitize and publish as many modern-era, public domain sculptures in Tate Britain’s collection as the project’s budget allows, along the lines of my Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle project. This Eric Gill capture is a demonstration both of what’s feasible, and of my sincere interest in increasing access to Tate Britain’s collection.
I captured Gill’s ‘Ecstasy’ at Tate Britain in 2012, and have even cast it in bronze, but I’ve been waiting for an advantageous time to publish the data. That time is now.
Click here to download the 3D-printable files: thingiverse.com/thing:528162
My (rejected) project proposal for the Tate IK Prize 2015
Q: How would you use digital technology, platforms or tools, to “connect the world to art”, creating a new way for the public to discover and enjoy British art from Tate’s collection? (150 words max).
Tate Britain Unbound will digitize and publish online, copyright-free, archival-quality 3D surveys and 3D-print-ready models of iconic, public domain sculptural artwork from Tate Britain. 3D visualizations of the works will be added to Tate.org.uk.
The public can Tweet their remixed surveys to be 3D printed and displayed at Tate Britain, all broadcast via live webcams.
Select remixes will be 3D printed large-scale and displayed. Example: Eric Gill’s Ecstasy, digitized, 3D printed, cast in bronze
Tate Britain Unbound will allow Tate Britain to experiment with projecting its collection outward, turning it into a living engine of cultural creation, to be endlessly adapted, multiplied, and remixed in unpredictable venues and media. We’ll set it loose to come alive in a vibrant, lively, and anarchic popular culture beyond the museum’s walls.
Tate Britain Unbound’s worldwide engagement with the public would begin immediately. Its effects will unfold over hundreds of years.
Read the complete proposal at TateBritainUnbound.com
Click here to download the 3D-printable files: thingiverse.com/thing:83781
In early 2014, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened its new Art + Technology Lab, and invited me to give its very first presentation. My talk was to a diverse cross section of 50 or so LACMA staff members and was on the topic of 3D printing, 3D capture, and opportunities for museums to use these new technologies to bring art to a wider audience.
I’ve published an online adaptation of my presentation here: 3D Printing, 3D Capture, and Opportunities for Design Custodians
In early 2014, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) opened its new Art + Technology Lab, and invited me to give its very first presentation. My talk was to a diverse cross-section of 50 LACMA staff members and was on the topic of 3D printing, 3D scanning, and opportunities for museums to use these new technologies to bring art to wider audiences.
The Lab has also recently revived LACMA’s Art + Technology grant program, which from 1967 to 1971 funded projects by artists such as Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. The grant program’s goal is “to help artists take purposeful risks in order to explore new boundaries in both art and science” by supporting projects that, as LACMA puts it, “address issues at the intersection of culture and technology, provide opportunities for public engagement, and produce data, methods of models that might be of interest to other artists and technology developers.”
A few days prior to my presentation, I submitted a grant application for my project, The Archetypes Burst In, which would have put the concepts in my presentation into action. It would have, in my opinion, put LACMA on the bleeding edge of art digitization and publishing–as well patronage of 3D digitization of the arts–and would have had important, long-lasting effects.
My proposal was rejected along with around 450 others’. You can read about the five winning proposals here.
My proposal, submitted January 27, 2014:
My client asked for a life-sized 3D printed portrait of a colleague. Because the portrait was to be a surprise gift, there was no opportunity to scan the subject. The piece had to be modeled from photos of him culled from the web.
I proposed a bust, roughly from the shoulders up, with classical allusions, but I was vague about the details beyond that. The final design references the Artemision Bronze, Leighton’s An Athlete Wrestling with a Python and a few other sources.
I took a risk and bet that they’d like something other than a standard chairman-of-the-board type treatment. And what’s the point of having rock & roll hair if you aren’t going to do the whole heroic barbarian-warrior-champion-god thing when you have your life-size 3D printed portrait done?
This is the result.
It’s plastic, with a patinated bronze finish.
This kind of remixing is just one small reason the world’s back catalog of public domain sculptural artwork should be digitized and published, freely, and without restriction. (More on that front soon…)
The Archetypes Burst In, Illustrated (2/10/2014)
LACMA hired me to give their new Art + Technology Lab its very first presentation, on February 3, 2014. It was a private presentation to approximately fifty of LACMA’s staff, including curators, asset managers, and fundraisers, though at my request they allowed me to invite a journalist.
My talk was billed as a “3D Printing Demo,” but I went for more.
The arrangement above was intended as a still-life depicting plenitude–abundance and variety. It’s what I set up to illustrate some of my thoughts on 3D printing, 3D capture, and new opportunities for museums in their role as custodians of design.
Below is a sped up compilation of a few videos I used in my talk (minus the ominous music). It features photos of others’ prints of some of my 3D captures.
There were a few raised eyebrows when it came to the topics of copyright and public domain, but it went well overall. Reactions ranged from positive and enthusiastic to–and I quote–“this is bullshit.” So I must be doing something right.
Next Up: The Medusa Rondanini (12/28/2013)
“[T]he mere knowledge that such a work could be created and still exists in the world makes me feel twice the person I was. I would say something about it if everything one could say about such a work were not a waste of breath. Works of art exist to be seen, not talked about, except, perhaps, in their presence. I am thoroughly ashamed of all the babbling about art in which I used to join. If I can get hold of a good cast of this Medusa, I shall bring it back with me…” — Goethe, Italian Journey
Winged Victory Published (12/28/2013)
“No classical education is needed to appreciate the personification, nor is it hard to grasp the drama of the figure’s action given its superb position–and this is so despite the absence of arms and head; indeed perhaps its maimed condition has helped make the life it retains seem more miraculous.” — Francis Haskell, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500-1900
Venus de Milo Published (12/28/2013)
“Supreme western works of art, like Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, preserve their indeterminacy through all interpretation. They are morally ungraspable. Even the Venus de Milo gained everything by losing her arms.” — Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson
Response to Original Venus de Milo vs. 3D Printed Copy (11/22/2013)
More noodling around with ideas and images for possible presentation at LACMA. This is a comparison of people’s response to the original Venus de Milo in the Louvre to their response to my 3D captured, 3D printed copy at the 2013 Paris 3D Printshow. The show was in the Louvre expo space, so my print was just a couple hundred feet away from the original.
I’m thinking that the fact that so many people are viewing the original through screens and taking photos undercuts the argument that there’s some essential, ineffable, supernatural awe involved in seeing the original, when really what people want is interaction, touch, control, and possession, all of which they get by mediating their experience with cell phones and cameras (for now, until they can have 3D prints).
3D Print of Perikles’ Helmet at 2013 Paris 3D Printshow (11/22/2013)
I’m working on ideas and images for a possible upcoming presentation to LACMA staff on 3D printing, 3D scanning, art, and museums. Here are photos of people at last week’s 3D Printshow in Paris responding to my 3D printed invention of Perikles’ helmet — a copy of an artifact that hasn’t been discovered and likely does not exist. Photos and touching allowed…
3D Printed/Bronze-Cast Matisse Bootleg at the Louvre (11/21/2013)
Because when’s the next time I’m going to be alone, after hours at the Louvre, with Vangelisesque muzak playing on the PA system, with my 3D captured, 3D printed bronze-cast bootleg of a Matisse? I found a buyer too…
(Why does YouTube suggest “Nightmare” as a tag for this video?)
3D Scanning, 3D Printed Lost PLA Bronze Casting, and the Art of the Living Dead
Over the last year, I have been experimenting with combining 3D capture, 3D design, and 3D printing with traditional lost wax bronze casting techniques. I’d like to use these technologies to develop a reliable method for producing large-scale traditional, artisanal bronzes faster and less expensively than has ever been possible in bronze’s 5,000 year history.
The first metalworkers likely were potters who discovered pieces of ores refined into flecks of precious metals embedded in their fired clays. It was the first alchemy, refining and changing substances from one to another, creating bronze alloys, silver, and gold from raw earth. Metalworking eventually became entwined with chthonic cults. Chthonic: having to do with the subterranean, fertility, and deities of the underworld — Hephaestus, Hades, Persephone, and Demeter — and the interface between the living and the dead. It’s a strange word and concept that evokes both abundance and the grave, so it seems fitting that my own experiments with new, Promethean technologies that allow light to be refined into bronze are being influenced and constrained by modern rituals and mysticism surrounding death and the afterlife.
Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle First Results (10/23/2013)
I spent a week in the Skulpturhalle Basel plaster cast museum in late September. I got some great 3D captures and I’ll start publishing them soon, starting with Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. Thanks again to the Skulpturhalle for giving me access to their collection, and to Autodesk and its Reality Capture division for their financial support, without which I would not have been able to undertake this project.
The Skulpturhalle’s plaster cast of Venus de Milo was commissioned in 1850, and was likely made by the Louvre’s own atelier. It is a very high quality cast, and I was able to get a very nice 3D capture of it. You can see a low-res preview of the model here.
The Skulpturhalle’s plaster of Winged Victory of Samothrace was made in 1892, and is documented to have been made by the Louvre atelier under the direction of Eugène Arrondelle. It is also of very high quality, and I got a complete, high quality capture of it. Here’s a preview.
Pictured above are two 20″ tall 3D prints I am currently working on. They will make their public debut at the 3D Printshows in London and Paris next month, and I will be publishing the 3D files shortly thereafter.
The Paris show is in the Carrousel du Louvre expo space, right next to the Louvre, which means that my prints will be a few hundred feet from the originals. I can’t think of a better venue.
In an interesting wrinkle, the Louvre just recently removed Winged Victory from public view for the first time in 130 years, for a nine month restoration. So my 3D printed copy will be on display just a stone’s throw from the Louvre’s Daru staircase, where the original will be conspicuously absent. The Louvre is soliciting donations from the public to support the multimillion dollar restoration project, which will include making a 3D survey of the original. I’ll be publishing my 3D data so that anyone can 3D print a copy. Will the Louvre publish theirs?
Here are snapshots of just a few of the pieces that turned out very well. A bust of the Borghese Ares, a bust of Homer, and Athena Velletri.
I have several more like these, and better.
And while poking around in the Skulpturhalle’s storage cabinets, I stumbled on a piece that isn’t listed in their public catalog (which focuses on ancient Greek and Roman works). It’s an extremely high quality Italian plaster cast of a Renaissance treasure and work of political propaganda — an enigmatic Florentine icon of power and status. I captured it, but I need to work on it more and figure out the right way to present it. But it’s great.
For more about my project, Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle click here.
NPR Morning Edition, All Tech Considered:
3-D Printing A Masterwork For Your Living Room (10/11/2013)
Wenman hopes he’s leading the way to a future where 3-D prints of sculptures by greats like Rodin or Michelangelo are as common as posters of a Van Gogh.
This site is owned and operated by Cosmo Wenman Incorporated