However much of an art lover I proclaim to be, many things tend to stand between myself and my appreciation of art, primarily the long lines, the limited available seating and the urge to reach out and touch the pieces, which as I learned the hard way, is prohibited. Thanks to avid art collector and futurist Basma Alsulaiman’s latest progressive venture – BASMOCA – the only thing that stands between me and my artistic admiration, are electrons.

Newly launched virtual museum BASMOCA has eliminated almost every barrier that exists between an individual and an artwork, allowing its online visitors to experience pieces in a new light, making available the option to zoom in and focus on an art’s intricate details and analyze a piece in 3D. Employing the latest technologies, Ms. Alsulaiman has made her expansive and impressive art collection available to the world through the click of a simple button.

We had a chance to delve into Basma Alsulaiman’s world, and pick her brain about what inspires her, how she realized her dream, and most importantly, what she thinks of the Kingdom’s upcoming artistic talents…

What was the catalyst behind your vision to create a virtual museum depicting real life art?
To break all physical barriers, and time and space limitations, that would prevent anyone from around the world to visit my museum, thus spreading art globally and making it reachable for all. From this concept came the title of the first exhibition in BASMOCA (Basma Alsulaiman Museum of Contemporary Art) currently on display: “Breaking Barriers”.

How did you create your virtual space? Are there any reflections of your character in the museum?
It all started with buying the land in the Virtual World (hosted by Second Life) and creating a surrounding that depicted the beauty of Jeddah and its location by the red sea. Then talking with architects and wed-developers of the site in order to build the actual museum inspired by an Arabian tent and adapting it to a contemporary space. After that we worked on the landscape imitating Moorish-style fountains and symmetrical palm trees to give an overall picture of what I’d like a museum in my country to be.

How did you realize your dream of bringing art to the masses in such a unique and inventive way?
We live in a modern world where technology is part of our daily lives which keep evolving more and more, and the future will definitely be for a 3D reality as space will no longer be a limitation and distances will be near eliminated.
I was fortunate to be introduced to this technology and I took advantage of it to spread the word of art. BASMOCA’s virtual gallery uses a new cutting edge technology that is emerging in the form of Virtual Worlds. This technology that is referred to as Metaverse allows people to interact in 3D cyberspace, which uses the metaphor of the real world but without its physical limitations. A website is like a bulletin board that presents information on a series of flat web pages and images in 2D, BASMOCA allows you to visualize in 3D the material presented, the dimensions and texture of the artworks, from canvas paintings to sculptures. This technology allows you to walk through and explore the museum as if you would in the real world.

What draws you to purchase the pieces you do?
Instinct first and foremost, which is what drives a collector’s passion. After talking to our curator I realized that my artistic interest is drawn towards figurative art that can be explicit or abstract and is the reflection of the artists’ issues in a positive or negative way. Since I started collecting in the early 90s, I was drawn towards European and American artists, from Frank Stella to David Hockney, and later on my attention shifted to the amazing contemporary art coming from China, from artists such as Ai Weiwei and Zeng Fanzhi. And now my passion is for Saudi and Middle Eastern artists, such as Abdulnasser Gharem and Saddiek Wassil.

Have you witnessed a rise in Saudi contemporary art? What do you think of the local talent?
I am very proud of Saudi artists and the amazing talents portrayed in their work. They have taken big steps forward based on a strong foundation of their dedication and commitment. It has risen in recent years to very compatible levels with the rest of the emerging markets with quality productions reflecting the Saudi culture and its interests. Keeping in mind the rich cultural heritage we have that inspires them, and how they manage to reach the status of dignified artists when they are all in fact selftaught due to lack of qualified art institutions in our country.

Within the Virtual Museum, you have allotted space for a separate gallery to promote up-and-coming artists from Saudi and the Middle East. What influenced this decision?
The first exhibition, “Breaking Barriers” was a curated show with a dialogue between pieces from my collection. This resulted in the hanging of international established artists in conversation with Arab and Saudi artists (for example, Bridget Riley and Hussein Al Mohasen in the same space). In the coming exhibitions we will explore more specific Saudi and Middle Eastern artists. We will also organize the first virtual talk with an artist, as our technology allows gathering everyone from wherever they are in the world, and allowing them to talk to the people in the museum and interact with others. The aim is to build a two way bridge between my country and the rest of the world where people, artists, art lovers, collectors can meet, learn and discuss their views.

Does experiencing the art in this 3D world change the perspective in which you see the art? How real-life is the exchange?
It can never replace the real experience, but this is as close as possible to it for the time being, especially with high resolution images and the 3D reconstruction of the sculptures, and the option of zooming into the paintings to look at details and textures. In a way we could also say that it is actually better then a real museum experience as you will not be able to be as close as you can to a painting as with the click of a button.

This is a pioneering concept. Are there any more unique ventures you have in mind to augment the visibility of art in this region?
The ultimate goal is to build a real contemporary art museum in my country, housing my art collection, and for it to be open for all to see, enjoy, and experience.

To experience the virtual museum yourself, visit:
www.basmoca.com