Cosmo Wenman Announces 3D-Scans of Ancient Greek and Roman Sculptures
Revolutionary 3D Scanning and 3D Printing Project to Make Ancient Greek and Roman Sculptures Available to Public
By Cosmo Wenman
Southern California-based 3D printing pioneer Cosmo Wenman announced plans to 3D-scan plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures at The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Basel, Switzerland. Wenman’s project, “Through a Scanner, Skulpturhalle,” will release the 3D scans and 3D printable models into the public domain, at no cost and copyright free, on Makerbot’s Thingiverse 3D printing website, allowing anyone with a 3D printer to print their own copies. Wenman’s project is a demonstration of the extraordinary potential for new 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies to bring sculptural masterworks into people’s homes at low cost.
The Skulpturhalle Basel museum holds a collection of approximately 2,000 high-quality plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, including the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, the Medusa Rondanini, and Athena Parthenos. Wenman has obtained the Skulpturhalle’s permission to take hundreds of photographs of each work, then process the images into 3D-printable files that will be uploaded to Makerbot’s Thingiverse, the premier online repository for 3D files. From there, artists and 3D printing enthusiasts can use the files to 3D print copies of their own, or create new derivative works. Teachers will be able to print copies for the classroom, giving students direct, hands-on access to the world’s sculptural masterworks.
The original ancient Greek and Roman works are scattered across museums around the world, but by 3D scanning the Skulpturhalle’s extensive collection of high-fidelity 18th and 19th century plaster reproductions, Wenman will be able to 3D capture the same ancient designs while side-stepping the need for extensive travel and negotiations with multiple museums, and in many cases will have superior access to what would be possible with the originals.
The project, seeking popular funding through a Kickstarter campaign which launched on June 6, is unusual as it will create a pure public good—rather than a commercial product—and the final products will be freely available online. The project also allows sponsors who contribute $1,850 or more to have a life-size 3D-printed bust of one of the scans donated to a school of their choice.
By making the scans available to anyone, Wenman hopes to further the goal of digitizing the world’s cultural heritage. “There are millennia of beautiful physical forms that can be digitized, propagated, and remixed over and over again in perpetuity, starting now,” he says. “They can become the foundation of an unlimited combinatorial explosion of adaptation and creation, and for untold new artwork and art forms in the coming years. Will the world’s back catalog of 3D art show up lit in pixels on our screens, 3D printed in our homes and classrooms, or embedded in our architecture or clothing? Or in something new? Mass 3D scanning and publishing projects like this are the first steps towards finding out.”
Supporters of the project will be enabling a revolution in the way we interact with art, says Wenman. “The children growing up today and tomorrow with 3D printers in their homes and classrooms are on the verge of becoming the very first generation to have an aesthetic sensibility informed by direct, hands-on access to the world’s sculptural masterworks,” he says. “Their cultural landscape and visual vocabulary will be richer, more complex, and more varied than ours. Sculpture and artifacts will be able to speak to them in ways that have never before been possible.”
Calling the project “a tremendous opportunity to bring great art into people’s lives,” Wenman invites supporters to take part in “a new, experimental form of art patronage, integrating yourself with art and art history and helping to close the distance between great art and the people who love it.” He continues, “Eventually, 3D printable designs of the entire world’s cultural heritage of sculptural masterworks will be available to everyone, and this project is my attempt to make that happen sooner rather than later.”
Paleontologist Louise Leakey, who has worked with Wenman on reproducing ancient hominid fossils using 3D printing, endorsed the project, saying, “Cosmo has a compelling vision of how these technologies can liberate the world’s three-dimensional heritage. The potential educational applications are limitless. Ambitious projects like this are a start of something new and exciting; please lend your support.”
Wenman’s life-size 3D-printed reproductions of sculpture have gained him a reputation as a pioneer in the 3D printing world. Bre Pettis, co-founder and CEO of MakerBot Industries, said, “Cosmo’s work truly brings 3D printing into another realm. [He] shows that the technology is much more malleable than previously envisioned and has created some of the most impressive examples of 3D replication we have ever seen.” BoingBoing.net editor Cory Doctorow called Wenman’s work, “…extraordinary achievements, which have really pushed the limits on 3D printing using low-cost, home-model printers.”
Wenman’s 3D scanned and 3D printed adaptations of works from the British Museum, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Tate Britain, the Getty Villa, the Louvre, and the Norton Simon museum have been displayed at the 2012 London 3D Print Show and the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. His life-size, solid bronze adaptation of the Getty Villa’s bust of Caligula was recently displayed as an example of digitization and 3D printed reproduction at a conference of museum curators at the Smithsonian.
Wenman considers himself a lifelong (informal) art student. He has a background in economics and architecture-related project management and design review. He lives in Southern California.
Project website: www.ThroughAScanner.com
To learn more about the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing to reproduce sculptures, visit:
For more information on the technical aspects of Wenman’s work, see this article from Tested.com:
For background on the use of plaster casts in the art world, see: