Juan Gabarron and Art-Tech Intersections in Asia

Juan Gabarron is the CEO of the Gabarron Foundation Asia, a non-profit art foundation that is pushing the avenues of art-tech and education for children and adults alike.


Interview by Paradigm Haus

Image Courtesy of Juan Gabarron


Paradigm Haus: Please give us a quick rundown of your background, where you are based and what you hope to achieve in your field.


Juan Gabarron: I studied Sciences as technology is another of my passions. Later, I studied my MBA as I’m passionate about the business world and how it can improve society through better service and better companies. I’ve been working in arts for most of my career; today I serve as director of the Gabarron Foundation Asia. In 2005 I moved to New York to develop the Gabarron Foundation in USA and in 2017 I moved to Hong Kong to develop our family foundation vision into Asia.


2022 will make the 30th anniversary of our first foundation in Spain, today our mission remains the same, to create awareness through the arts and education. We have three main goals: 1) we aim to foster the humanities into people’s life; today more than ever we need to leverage the current technology overexposure. 2) Art and culture is a powerful communication language, capable of connecting people regardless of their language or culture. We want to create bridges through arts to connect people across cultures and continents. 3) Children’s education is the key to the future, art is natural for all of us. Since the cave era, we can draw figures and show concepts, before we can even speak, but somehow we lose this natural tool when we get into school growing up. We want kids to continue art education from elementary to their higher education to unlock the full potential of art education as another fundamental skills of humankind, not to create more artists but to deliver more creative people into our future world.


Art Futura, Image Courtesy of Juan Gabarron


PH: Where does your drive for the art and culture sector come from?


JG: I grew up surrounded by artists and art in Valladolid, Spain. My father is an artist and this cultural environment has been around me always as a natural atmosphere. Seeing the big gaps in the society and believing in the capacity of art to fill those gaps and create better society is the drive that keeps me going forward through the years.


PH: You mentioned being involved in a 360-VR exhibition/experience, how did this come about and what was the response?


JG: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the capacity of people to travel and, of course, visiting museums, art exhibitions, etc. We had a very important program coming up, the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, with a monumental outdoor installation and museum exhibition about different UN pillars in dialogue through the art.

As COVID limited the museum capacity as well as all national and international travels, we found on 360-VR the best tool to overcome these limitations. At the same time, we untapped another hidden gap, people cannot use technology the same way, so we deliver three main experiences, to cover most of the visitor’s technological backgrounds, so they can have a more natural visit (it’s not the same the technology understanding of a 10-year-old, than a 60-year-old visitor). You can visit 360.gabarron.org.

This technology is simple (fast delivery, no apps to download) yet powerful (can deliver the immersive experience with a laptop, a smartphone, and the VR-Headset with the same web browser. It integrates interaction with visitors, not just moving around the 360 but also visitors could create their own images by changing the field of view, distance, etc generating infinite compositions, up to their own little planets.

The holistic approach was not just using VR on a basic level but we did the most out of it. We shot more than a thousand 360-immersive panoramas, we used drone shooting, as well as 360-video to have an immersive experience with the curator’s tours through the different museum galleries. We had Gigabyte resolution, to embed a 24 meters wide by 4 meters high mural, into a seamless zoom up to centimeter resolution. The panoramas also integrated into Google Maps, so we added new channels, besides our own website.


The result is triple: 1) the visitors can have a new way to enjoy the art that was not possible before, and they don’t need to have a VR-headset, it can be enjoyed from any device. 2) the fast content delivery and the three levels of 360 experiences, made the engagement really high, integrating arts and technologies for a centered-human experience. 3) Beyond the physical time limits of any exhibition in the real world, the exhibition now is timeless, accessible not just during the dates of the exhibition but will exists for the years to come in the digital world.


The Gabarron VR experience. Images via Juan Gabarron (via 360.gabarron.org)




PH: Tell us more about your think-tank and how it got started.


JG: As I briefly stated before we are very concerned of the imbalance of the technology with all the humanities, and with our ORG think tank we aim to leverage a bit that. With all the IT, AI, ML… we need to make equally stronger our humanities, to develop our society balanced. We should always target in our societies to the natural equilibrium of sciences and humanities, but nowadays the nature of the technology demands intrinsically a reborn of humanities. Technology is replacing human labor, hence, in order to make humans more capable of being ahead of the machines, we need to make humans with new strengths so people can be more creative in ways that machine cannot compete. This mostly involve core humanities, this is the focus of our ORG…the most relevant example that I can think of is Steve Jobs back in 1972, after dropped out of the main university curriculum, before he was able to build his revolutionary technology company Apple, he took courses of calligraphy, dance, and Shakespeare at Reed university; later on himself acknowledged those courses were key in the concept and development of Apple, without even knowing when he took them.


PH: How are art and tech intersecting now, and what does this mean for artists and the NGO sector?


JG: It’s a complex subject that would require many hours so I would just summarize that art and tech have always been intersecting in different ways, the difference today is that the technology revolution and the art market speculation produced a bubble with NFT that is making many artists to explore digital art as this is a new trend for the market. In this case is very complex as the NFTs are linked to the value of the Crypto currencies which make it very volatile and speculative. Time will tell us if this will really reinvent digital-art world and the market or if will turn into a historical attempt to change the art world.

To me the NGOs, as many other companies, have way more potential with the development of the blockchain applications, the key of its success rely on the easiness to use it, its sustainability as most blockchain technologies requires a lot of energy consumption, and the size of market they serve, if it is not big enough to make it on the mainstream it would be doomed.


On the other hand, besides NFTs hype, as young artists are more naturally using technology in their lives, it is normal that they create art with these new technology tools. Also young collectors growing up in the same natural technology ecosystem, they will be buying more digital art as is more natural to them, this is for sure a trend that will keep getting stronger and stronger. Another important change is the traditional museums and galleries, will coexist with digital museums and galleries, a parallel art world to contemplate the art in the traditional and the new digital ways.


The China Art Museum of Shanghai presents the exhibition The Mysteries of Columbus, 2015, by Cristóbal Gabarron.


Image courtesy of Juan Gabarron


PH: What changes have you seen throughout the art and culture industry?

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