The Art of Video Games

June 6, 2015 – September 13, 2015

Exhibition Overview

This ground-breaking exhibition—alive with light, sound, and movement—challenges the boundaries of how we define art by exploring the forty-year evolution of video games. An amalgam of painting, writing, sculpture, music, storytelling, and cinematography, video games offer a previously unprecedented way of communicating with and engaging the viewer. Unlike more traditional art forms, video games are seductively interactive, relying on striking visual effects and creative new technologies to draw the player into their virtual worlds. The player not only experiences and interacts with the art, but to some extent, also controls it.

The Art of Video Games is the brainchild of Chris Melissinos, founder of Past Pixels, an organization which records and preserves video games. He planned the exhibition in collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, but relied upon the public to decide its contents. The Art of Video Games reflects the choices of 119,000 people from 175 countries who cast 3.7 million votes to decide which, among hundreds of games, were the most important. Featuring the work of the most influential artists and designers The Art of Video Games explores eighty-five examples of the genre, ranging from early works for Atari VCS to the cutting-edge games of PlayStation 3. These are presented chronologically through still images and digital footage, as well as video interviews with developers and artists. The exhibition also includes production sketches and drawings, as well as historic game consoles. Five playable games—Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower—allow visitors to interact with diverse virtual worlds, highlighting not only their innovative techniques, but their legendary, almost addictive appeal. 

The Art of Video Games is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from the Entertainment Software Association Foundation; Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins; Shelby and Frederick Gans; Mark Lamia; Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk; Rose Family Foundation; Betty and Lloyd Schermer; and Neil Young. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

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