An Art Museum Reachable by All: The BASMOCA Virtual Art Museum

“In a faraway place, surrounded by sand dunes, lies a great house of treasures, a museum only recently discovered, for all to explore in the land of BASMOCA…”

Most art galleries require a physical presence to witness their collections. Beholding a work of art in its location is a pivotal experience. Yet as the art world becomes increasingly globalized and art professionals jet set from one art fair to the next viewing international artworks in situ can become a difficult affair. Launched this past Sunday, BASMOCA: Basma Alsulaiman Museum of Contemporary Art is the world’s first virtual museum based on the private collection of owner and founder Basma Al Sulaiman. The cutting-edge artworks featured in the BASMOCA are accessible to all thus creating a world-wide platform for the promotion of young and emerging artists from Saudi and the Middle East.

Born to parents from the Qasim province of central Saudi Arabia, Basma was always interested in the culture and heritage of the local culture around her. Her desire to more greatly understand the culture she came from as well as the arts from other countries prompted her to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in Jeddah and a diploma in contemporary art from Christie’s Education. As she travelled the globe absorbing contemporary art she began to collect. “It became an obsession.  Once you’re drawn to a piece, you fall in love with it and the collector’s drive is a euphoric feeling. I was buying art all over the place, wherever I saw it,” says Basma. “I started to look into exhibitions and museums, and the first contemporary show to blow my mind was Charles Saatchi’s Sensation (1997) at the Royal Academy, London.” She brought home to Saudi works by renowned artists Frank Stella, David Mack, Renier Fetting and Luciano Castelli.

Young British Artists such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman had a particular influence on her collecting and led her to make London her home right after the claimed “Sensation” exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. It was during this time that she began to build a collection of art.

During 2003/2004 she began to explore Chinese contemporary art. She travelled throughout China and bought works from artists such as Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Huan. Spending time in China and exploring Chinese art led Basma to more fully appreciate Chinese culture and history. Chinese contemporary art was a mirror of all that the Chinese people had gone through.

Basma wants to share her great love for art and culture with everyone. Her willing to share her collection led her to the establishment of BASMOCA. Her collection doesn’t just concentrate on art from the Middle East, but contemporary art from all over the world. Alongside the permanent collection of contemporary art which Basma has collected from around the world, is another gallery dedicated to the promotion of young and emerging artists from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East “I want to share my vision with other people. By embracing technology, we can make the collection available, all over the world, to as many people as possible. To be able to show an international collection in a global forum, this is the future,” she says.

BASMOCA is a revolution in the virtual experience of an art museum. Based on Virtual Worlds Technology, people interact in a 3D cyberspace without the physical limitations of an actual gallery space or museum. Such a constructed virtual reality goes beyond cultural boundaries and time zones to allow people from all over the world to interact and appreciate Basma’s magnificent art collection.

Visit the BASMOCA website and download the Second Life application to begin your journey to the virtual museum.

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