Can 3D Printing Take Over Original Masterpieces?

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A Lito Masters reproduction of Henri Matisse's "Odalisque au coffret rouge" was created using data from an advanced laser scanner Credit: CNN

3D printing is widely accepted in the world of art and design with its vivid and close-to-original depictions. Over the years, it has enabled artists to create intricate and complex designs that were previously impossible to produce. However, the question is whether 3D printing can take over original masterpieces.

This has been the go-to technology for museums and galleries who would like to display in small sizes the original pieces of famed artists like Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rembrandt.

3D printing produces these masterpieces stroke by stroke and colour by colour making them come off as the original. For instance, Factum Arte, a team that uses 3D scanning and printing techniques in Spain, has been able to make millimeter-accurate facsimiles of works of art by 16th-century European masters. This technology has also been used to recreate ancient masterpieces such as the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Another 3D printing company established in 2022,  Lito Masters, has over the years collaborated with museums to create 3D designs of original art pieces. The company’s co-founder, John Dodelande, describes 3D designs as the clones of originals.

“It’s almost a clone,” he told CNN on a video call. “So you observe the relief, the brushstrokes — everything.”

Lito’s recreation of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles” is sold for under 3,626 euros. Now, this is baffling because Van Gogh’s works attract six figures at auctions. At the same time, a near-life-size version of a painting from René Magritte’s “The Empire of Light” series, goes for 6,650 euros, while a small work on paper costs 450 euros.

However, it is important to note that 3D printing cannot replace the original masterpiece. The original artwork has a unique history and cultural significance that cannot be replicated. Moreover, the value of an original artwork is determined by its authenticity and rarity.

From these findings, do you think 3D printing can eventually take over the quality of an original Van Gogh painting?

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