We bring new tech to old school

We bring new tech to old school

Upfest 2020: Virtual Upfest

Curio teamed up with arts organisation Upfest to overcome COVID-19 by unveiling incredible new street art in a VR festival: Virtually Upfest.

The Upfest virtual experience works on any device: from smartphones and tablets to desktop computers and virtual reality headsets.

You just need to visit virtual.upfest.co.uk and navigate the 3D model which is still live today, extending the usual run of the festival.


New artworks


Square metres to explore


AR filters


In June 2020 Europe’s biggest street art festival – Upfest – was forced to cancel it’s yearly celebration but in September 2020 we launched Virtually Upfest, an Upfest virtual reality experience showcasing 30 new artworks, thanks to funding from Arts Council England.

Responding to the pandemic with a VR festival

Each year 50,000 people gather in Southville, Bristol, to witness the live work of 400 artists and wonder at new murals. However, like most other festivals, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that Upfest 2020 had to be cancelled.

Determined to showcase their talented artists, Upfest challenged Curio to find an alternate way of sharing the festival with audiences in a COVID-safe way.

Upfest founder Stephen Hayles was keen to experiment in the world of virtual reality and create a new platform for the festival and its artists. Supported by emergency funding from Arts Council England, we began work on Virtual Upfest.

Creating a new world to showcase digital art

During Upfest Bristol’s streets become the canvas for hundreds of artists. We knew if we wanted to give Upfest fans a familiar experience that a sense of place within the city was important so we built a 3D model of North Street – the usual site of Upfest festival – but with a twist!

We wanted to give Virtually Upfest users a heightened version of Upfest rather than simply recreating the street photorealistically and reminding people of the real life experience they were missing out on. Instead we wanted to transport them somewhere new and send their imaginations into overdrive!

Our retro reconstruction was influenced by the 1982 legendary American sci-fi film TRON, which saw arcade owner Kevin Flynn reconstituted into the internal 3D-graphical world of computers, giving Virtually Upfest a futuristic look that nicely offset the artworks. Just like Kevin, Virtually Upfest audiences enter the digital world – only without the deadly games!

It’s in this virtual world that artists from around the world have been able to showcase their latest work.

Upfest commissioned new works by a spectrum of 30 UK artists specifically for Virtually Upfest. Though most of the artists work traditionally with paint, for Virtually Upfest they had to create digital pieces that Curio could embed into the virtual street.

Each artist was given a specific site in Virtually Upfest where their work would be located, enabling them to work through their familiar processes but in an unfamiliar medium. This new digital approach was an exciting challenge for the artists and encouraged them to think about the way they conceptualised ideas of space and canvases.

The result of this collaboration is unlike anything Upfest goers had experienced before.

"I’m a paint-on-canvas artist and I don’t even delve into the digital world so for me it’s really interesting. It’s a great thing to be part of."

Sophie Long – Artist

I’m a paint-on-canvas artist and I don’t even delve into the digital world so for me it’s really interesting. It’s a great thing to be part of.”

Sophie Long – Artist

Upfest reimagined

Running this world-famous street art festival online ensured the continuation of the festival despite the pandemic.

Virtually Upfest enabled Upfest organisers to reconnect with their audience and welcome street art fans from around the world – virtually – to the streets of South Bristol. The platform allows both national and international audiences to enjoy the festival from the comfort of their own homes, or on the move through their mobiles.

Upfest fans were able to discover incredible new street art in virtual North Street. Starting at the Upfest gallery and running all the way down North Street to the Tobacco Factory, our 3D rendition of North Street meant users could explore the virtual space at their own pace.

Not only could they view the exclusive work commissioned to be part of Upfest Virtual, they could also find out more about the artists with direct links to the artists’ websites and merchandise.

Access to the Upfest virtual world was, and remains, free continuing the Upfest Organisation ethos of making art accessible for all.

Virtually Upfest was an experiment into hosting events in a post-COVID world and, although most street artists would agree they would rather be out painting on a real street, this collaboration created a new space to share their work and helped to maintain spirits in 2020 and beyond.

Instagram Artists Filters

To celebrate the launch of Virtual Upfest 2020, we teamed up with digital artwork collectors Rendar and Bristol artists Cheo and Copyright to offer people a further opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of street art through 3 augmented reality Instagram filters.

Cheo began drawing and painting graffiti characters in the mid 1980’s and has a very recognisable cartoon-style, inspired by the comic book characters of Vaughn Bode. We animated his artwork ‘Retro Flow’ by creating an AR filter that brings the exclusive print to life.

We also created an additional layer of free flowing psychedelia for Copyright’s ‘Heal.’

Fusing street art, graffiti and more traditional styles Copyright uses a mixture of classic painting techniques, printing and spray can art. Combine the print with its Instagram Filter to see it leap off your screen and dance magically for your entertainment.

Even though you couldn’t physically attend Upfest in 2020, our filters enabled people to fully immerse themselves in the virtual festival.

We took it one step further, encouraging people to step into the shoes of a graffiti artist using our Instagram selfie filter which invites you to try on the 3D Upfest hat and chain and add selfies to your Instagram story.

These 3 examples show the power of augmented reality to really put people in the picture, and have an unexpected experience with art.

Find out how you can use AR filters to engage your visitors on our services page.

We like telling your stories

Release your inner artist by testing out the bespoke AR filter we made for Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival: Upfest. Your collections might be more Botticelli than Banksy but that shouldn’t stop you putting your audiences in the picture. With AR filters you can take a selfie in Monet’s garden, clone yourself into a Warhol or add unexpected objects into your frame like Magritte. With an augmented reality canvas, your artistic expression can be limitless.

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