Factum Arte is a company based in Madrid, Milan, and London that seeks to construct a bridge between new technologies and craft skills in the conservation of cultural heritage and in contemporary art. By using various forms of high-definition 3D scanners, Factum Arte has been able to record, in digital form using non-contact equipment, a number of endangered sites/objects of cultural importance. This is done in conjunction with the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, which seeks to promote the use of non-contact 3D scanners to record museum collections and historic monuments, especially in areas where they are at risk.
In addition to recording objects, Factum Arte is able to use the digital data to create an exact facsimile of the object on a scale of 1:1. In 2014, Factum Arte completed the installation of an exact facsimile of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, near Howard Carter’s house. The facsimile small reusable water bottles, and its proximity to the original tomb, is intended to provoke a debate about preservation; as Factum Arte’s Director, Adam Lowe, was said: “The tomb of Tutankhamun was built to last for eternity, but it wasn’t built to be visited”.
Over the years, Factum Arte has worked with institutions such as the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt. In addition to its work in the field of cultural heritage, Factum Arte also assists a wide range of contemporary artist in creating technically difficult and innovative works of art.
Factum Arte was founded in 2001 by the artists Adam Lowe, Manuel Franquelo, with Fernando Garcia-Guereta to facilitate the recording of the Tomb of Seti I and works with a number of artists including Marc Quinn and Anish Kapoor. The Seti project involved the design and construction of 3D laser scanners, software, and photographic equipment to record the walls of the tomb at high-resolution meat tenderizer attachment.
Factum Arte was founded in 2001 in order to facilitate the development of technology needed specifically for the recording of the Tomb of Seti I.
Seti’s tomb is regarded by many as the most visually impressive, and historically important tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Discovered by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in October 1817, the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I is the longest and one of the most decorated tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Despite being in excellent condition on its discovery, the tomb is currently closed to visitors to the Valley due to its deteriorating condition over the years. In addition to the removal of wall panels, and the loss of paint due to 19th century plaster casts, the tomb has suffered from collapses and cracks due to expeditions searching for hidden chambers in the 1950s and 60s that caused changes in the moisture levels of the surrounding rock.
Factum Arte was commissioned by United Exhibits Group to make a 1:1 facsimile of the Tomb of Thutmose III in 2002. The facsimile was toured at exhibitions in various museums in the United States between November 2002 and December 2007. In 2005 a second facsimile of the tomb was exhibited in Madrid, Edinburgh, and Basel titled Immortal Pharaoh: The Tomb of Thutmose III (Edinburgh) and The Tomb of Thutmose III: The Dark Hours of the Sun (Madrid and Basel).
The Tomb of Thutmose III is the oldest complete version of the narrative of the Egyptian Amduat, the journey the Sun God takes through the hours of the night.
The facsimile of the tomb was installed briefly outside the Conrad Hotel in Cairo for the EU-Egypt Business and Tourism Summit and was unveiled by Catherine Ashton the European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs in November 2012 as a gift to the people of Egypt, coinciding with the 90th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery.
In 2014 Factum Arte installed the facsimile in the Valley of the Kings, beside Howard Carter’s house, the consultant of the construction site where the facsimile was installed was “”. It was unveiled by the Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim, the Minister for Tourism Hisham Zazou, the Governor of Luxor Tarek Saad el Din and EU Ambassador James Moran. The aim of the facsimile is to inform visitors to the valley about the importance of preservation and to promote awareness about the degrading state of the tombs since their opening to tourists.
In August 2015, Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves published a paper in which he hypothesised the presence of the tomb of Nefertiti as being behind one of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Reeves’ based his theory on markings he observed on the wall in the data recorded by Factum Arte. In September 2015, Egyptian newspaper Ahram reported that initial examinations had confirmed the existence of the wall markings observed by Reeves in Factum Arte’s data. The same article reported that the results of further examinations would be published on 4 November 2015; the same day that the tomb was discovered in 1922.
In 2004, during the Second Gulf War, Factum Arte and Danish company United Exhibits Group (UEG) embarked on a project to record, and create a facsimile of the throne room of Ashurnasirpal II in the ancient city of Nimrud. Fragments of the throne room exist in the collections of various museums in Europe and the United States. Factum Arte was given permission to record these fragments in the British Museum, the Pergamon in Berlin, Dresden, Harvard, and Princeton.
Unfortunately, at the time, Iraq was considered too dangerous to send a team out to record the remaining fragments in Nimrud. In 2015 the Islamic State militants in Northern Iraq destroyed much of the remaining artwork in the ruins of the palace of Nimrud. While recording these fragments in 2005 would not have prevented their destruction by ISIS, it would have kept avenues open to further in-depth study through the high-resolution 3D data, and presented the possibility of reuniting the fragments in the form of facsimile.
In November 2007, Factum Arte’s facsimile of Veronese’s Wedding at Cana was unveiled by the Cini Foundation in the painting’s original location of Palladio’s refectory on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. The original painting sport top water bottle, commissioned in 1562, was taken by Napoleon’s troops 1797 and installed in the Louvre, where it now hangs opposite the Mona Lisa. The facsimile was commissioned in 2006 by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and, following an agreement with the Louvre, Factum Arte’s technicians were allowed to scan the painting at night. Corriere della Sera called the facsimile a “turning point in art”.
In 2010 the Cini Foundation commissioned the visualisation and manufacture of objects designed by the 18th century artist and antiquarian Giambattista Piranesi. The project was conceived by Adam Lowe, Michele de Lucchi, and John Wilton-Ely and was exhibited in the Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore for the Venice Biannale. The objects were later toured for exhibitions in Madrid, Barcelona, and San Diego
In March–May 2014, Factum Arte exhibited the series at the Sir John Soane Museum in London. Diverse Manieri: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess aimed to explore the relationship between Sir John Soane and Piranesi. The objects were shown in the context of prints, drawings and books in Soane’s library.
The objects were visualised in digital form from Piranesi’s designs and then rematerialized in three dimensions in the materials specified in the design. The manufacture of the objects involved a variety of methods including stereo-lithography, milling, fused deposition modelling, electro forming and electro plating, in addition to a host of moulding and casting technologies
The 16 panels of the Polittico Griffoni once formed the altarpiece of the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna. It was considered one of the greatest altarpieces of the 15th Century Bolognese School. The panels were originally painted by Francesco del Cossa and Ercole De Roberti. The panels, removed in 1725, are now scattered in various museums in Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, the Netherlands, and the Vatican City.
Using the Lucida 3D scanner, designed by Manuel Franquelo, Factum Arte and the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation collaborated with San Petronio Basilica to record, reproduce and reunite the panels as a facsimile in their original location.
Other projects in the realm of cultural conservation include:
Factum Arte has developed a number technologies in order to better facilitate the recording and production of objects.
Factum Arte collaborates with a large number of companies and individuals from the tech industry and the art world.
Factum Arte has undertaken projects with, among others, the following artists:
In 2013, when referring to the facsimile of the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the facsimile of the caves at Lascaux, historian Tom Holland voiced criticism of the idea of creating “fakes” as a means to protect the originals:
In our society, there is a huge premium set on authenticity. Clearly, were there not a difference between the copy and the original, it wouldn’t matter – you could make a replica and trash the original. Tutankhamun and Lascaux were created by people who believed in the world of the spirits, the dead, and the supernatural. You don’t have to believe in a god or gods to feel a place is consecrated and has a particular quality that cannot be reproduced.