Gallery visitors will be barred if they ram artwork with robots

Craig Simpson
·2 min read
The Saatchi Gallery is deploying 22 robots
The Saatchi Gallery is deploying 22 robots

Art lovers will be able tour an experimental show at the Saatchi gallery using robots to stay safe from Covid-19, but could be disconnected from their automatons by digital doorman if they misbehave and crash into the displays.

The Chelsea gallery is hosting the work of artist Philip Colbert, who has rounded up 22 remote-controlled robots “visitors” can book to peruse the exhibition from the comfort of their homes through the eyes of a machine.

Automatons can be operated by ticket-holders with their laptop or smartphone in 30-minute slots, enabling their “robot selves” to explore the gallery freely and use built-in cameras to view the works on display.

But the breakthrough robotic visits are not without risks, and staff are prepared to disconnect users from their “robot selves” if they crash into other droids or the artworks on display.

Mr Colbert’s Lobsteropolis show is believed to be the first to use such technology on this scale in a gallery, and despite the risk of unruly users turning the advanced machines into dodgems, he believes the Covid-secure robots visits could become more commonplace.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “There is a bit of a risk, which I think is important for art, and for the experience to feel inspiring

“Ultimately, if people behave badly, they will be disconnected, a bit like getting escorted out in a normal event

“We will have a robot on the door, we’re keen to keep the experience as surreal as possible, and there will be gallery staff on hand to assist if required.”

Mr Colbert said the prospect of future pandemics have made science fiction concepts like adopting “robots selves” to visit hazardous public spaces a reality.

The pop artist known for his  lobster sculptures envisions his experimental robot show to be  “like visiting the wreck of the Titanic”, with technology allowing humans to dive into his Lobsteropolis world, which opens to the public on October 29.