© Andreas Reichinger, VRVis

3-D prints are opening up the world of art to the visually impaired.

Jess McHugh
October 12, 2016

Blind visitors to the Belvedere museum in Vienna will be able to experience Gustav Klimt's masterpiece "The Kiss" for the first time, thanks to a special 3-D print now on display.

A European Union project aimed at helping the blind assisted in the creation of the 3-D relief of Klimt's 1907-08 painting, in an effort to allow the visually-impaired more access to art, the Local/Agence-France Presse reported. "The Kiss" depicts a man in ornate clothing embracing a woman, and the painting is known for its rich colors and textures.

© Andreas Reichinger, VRVis

"We want to open up a whole new chapter of making art available for the blind and visually impaired," Rainer Delgado from the German association for the blind and visually impaired (DBSV) told the Local.

The Belvedere museum's efforts are not the first time art institutions have created programs for the visually impaired. 

© Ruth List

New York's Metropolitan Museum offers small group or individual guided tours of its "touch collection," which includes a Roman marble foot and a 20th-century Eskimo sculpture. The Met also leads what it calls “verbal imaging” tours where guides give highly-detailed descriptions of the works of art as they move through the exhibits with visitors.

Madrid's Museo del Prado hosted an exhibit for the blind in March 2015 that featured 3-D relief versions of such well-known works as Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and Francisco Goya's "Parasol."

“It’s an unbelievable sensation,” 56-year-old José González—who has been blind since he was 14—told the New York Times at the Prado. “I’m feeling this painting down to the detail of each fingernail.”

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Florence's Uffizi Gallery and the Denver Art Museum have also pioneered programs for the blind.

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