Category Archives: OPEN ACCESS WRITING


The IK Prize is presented annually by Tate for an idea that uses digital technology to innovate the way we discover, explore and enjoy British art in the Tate collection.

My rejected project proposal for the Tate IK Prize 2015:

Tell us who you are and what creative digital projects you have done in the past (150 words max).

As a freelance designer, consultant, and lifelong informal art student, for the last several years I’ve been experimenting with the 3D capture, 3D printing, remixing, and copyright-free digital publication of antiquities and fine art.

I have published online several scans of works in the Louvre and British Museum.

My recently completed project Through A Scanner, Skulpturhalle produced and freely shared 3D surveys of 19th-century plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures from the Skulpturhalle, Basel museum in Switzerland.

That project published for the very first time high-quality 3D surveys of Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and the Medusa Rondanini, among several others. These surveys have been downloaded 70,000 times in the few months since their publication, and have been 3D printed by art lovers all over the world. This bleeding-edge project received international press coverage from a diverse collection of pop culture, tech, art, and conservation-oriented media outlets.

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).

My project, 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


The example shown at left is Eric Gill’s stone carving, Ecstasy, which I scanned, 3D printed, and cast in bronze.

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.

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.



[Update, March 15, 2016: After my investigation was reported by multiple news outlets, including Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, InstapunditThe Daily Dot, Kotaku, Digital Trends, Fusion,  Gizmodo, Hyperallergic, MentalflossBoingBoing, and ARTFIXdaily, The New York Times was compelled to publish a follow-up story: Nefertiti 3-D Scanning Project in Germany Raises Doubts.]

[Update, November 13, 2019: After a three-year FOIA effort, I was able to obtain the Neues Museum’s original 3D scan of Nefertiti. That story is here.]

March 8, 2016

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


20200127 Parthenon Horse Camera Angles, Cosmo Wenman

In my 2015 presentation to the California Association of Museums’ conference panel on access, I advocated 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 also clarify the difference between museums welcoming amateur scanners (that is, allowing photography in their galleries) and museums publishing their own high-quality scans. And 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.

You can read an adaptation of my presentation at



20200126 PINTEREST Cosmo Wenman, cropped

I’ve put together a Pinterest board collecting photos people have posted online of their 3D prints of my 3D scans. Over 100,000 scan downloads to date, and countless 3D 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.



20200126 LACMA display by Cosmo Wenman

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 on the topic of 3D printing, 3D capture, and opportunities for museums to use these new technologies to bring art to a wider audience. It was a private presentation to a diverse cross section of roughly fifty LACMA staff, including curators, asset managers, and fundraisers. There were a few raised eyebrows when it came to the topics of copyright and public domain, but overall it went well. Reactions ranged from positive and enthusiastic to—and I quote—”I think this is bullshit.” So I must be doing something right.

My presentation is here: 3D Printing, 3D Capture, and Opportunities for Design Custodians

The arrangement in the image shown above was intended to illustrate plenitude—the abundance, variety, and endless adaptation that these technologies can facilitate.

The video below is a sped-up compilation of a few of the videos and images I used in my presentation (minus the ominous music). It features photos of others’ prints of some of my 3D captures.




Broken PLA Mold grey bg by Cosmo Wenman

October 24, 2014

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.

Continue reading


From Umberto Eco’s essay Casablanca, or, The Clichés are Having a Ball:

“Thus Casablanca is not just one film. It is many films, an anthology. Made haphazardly, it probably made itself, if not actually against the will of its authors and actors, then at least beyond their control. And this is the reason it works, in spite of aesthetic theories and theories of film making. For in it there unfolds with almost telluric force the power of Narrative in its natural state, without Art intervening to discipline it.

Continue reading