#BigArtRide: exploring art, cycling and a virtual city

If you follow us on social media, you will have seen intriguing pictures of people on a bike wearing a VR headset. This was our #BigArtRide, an interactive experience mixing art, virtual reality and cycling from Europeana and Dutch design studio DROPSTUFF.nl. The #BigArtRide stopped in off Brussels, Wrocław, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Paris. In all these cities participants raced in real time against another person based in the Netherlands. The racers cycled through a virtual city, passing #Europeana280 artworks and famous European landmarks.


The unique combination of art, virtual reality and cycling offered by #BigArtRide piqued the curiosity of all sorts of people. Some learned about our events from Facebook or local media and came early to be one of the first to try it. In Wrocław, we met international students searching for an occasion to learn about European culture in a fun way. At a Campus Party in Utrecht, tech geeks and their families came to take a ride as a break between building a robot and attending a drone flying contest! We also had school kids and tourists happy about visiting an extra attraction on their travels. And of course we had lots of passers-by attracted by something new and eye-catching.

As for the dress code? People wearing proper cycling clothes came to participate in our Rome-Nijmegen edition that took place during the start of the Giro d’Italia in Gelderland. But otherwise we saw people cycling in everything from tuxedos to kigurumi – Japanese animal onesies.


And we can’t forget about the VIPs who wore mostly business-casual but, more importantly, they dared to race in the limelight of press attention, whilst not seeing the camera flashes because of the Oculus Rift headset. The Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science virtually raced the CEO of the ING Bank, Rik Vandenberghe. And to celebrate the presidency handover from The Netherlands to Slovakia, Marjan Hammersma, Director General of Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in The Netherlands and Ivan Sečík, State Secretary of the Slovak Ministry of Culture, cycled against each other in Amsterdam and Bratislava respectively. We also had a member of royalty – Dutch Prince Constantijn, who took a ride in Utrecht.

#BigArtRide – Official Aftermovie by DROPSTUFF.nl 

For many people #BigArtRide was their first contact with VR and we were really happy to make it special for them by designing the experience in the context of cultural heritage rather than the usual video game environment. Another special aspect was the element of biking, making the #BigArtRide a physical activity so different from usual static play position. Some people thought that racing really fast made it difficult to see the artworks. But they were actually passing artworks at the very same speed many people pass artworks when in a museum. The good news is we have a solution for them (and for you!) and for everyone who wants to take their time seeing the art from #BigArtRide – we’ve prepared a virtual exhibition ‘Faces of Europe’. Here you can see and read about all the artworks from the tour (and more) at your own pace.

Are you interested in exploring more culture in innovative ways? Then keep an eye out for #JumpingJacks another cool Europeana initiative bringing together art and technology.

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