Last month, Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera published a 3D digital model of artist Marcel Duchamp's chess kit. The original, hand-carved by Duchamp, is gone — but now anyone with a 3D printer can recreate the artist's kings and rooks at home. As it turns out, this is far from the only piece of great art you can recreate with a 3D printer.
Duchamp's chess set is part of a wider trend on sites like Thingiverse, where 3D printing enthusiasts share blueprints to create objects using their machines. If you have a 3D printer, a lot of 3D printer 'ink', and a medium amount of moxie, you can make yourself a mini-museum of replicated artwork, spanning centuries, continents and styles.
The creators of the blueprints allow users to download them, so even if you've purchased a 3D printer but have no idea how to design stuff, you can still amass an impressive mini-art gallery. If you want to do it yourself, Thingiverse is definitely the best place to look. If you'd rather buy your 3D prints, check out a few examples of what Shapeways has to offer below.
Marcel Duchamp's Chess Set
The new 3D-printed set from Kildall and Cera was created from an archival photo of Duchamp's original set.
A 3D-printed version of Michelangelo's David, meanwhile, will run you $US50:
Or you can head to Thingiverse to choose a blueprint of your own, like this one:
Rodin's The Thinker
The Venus de Milo by Alexandros of Antioch
Designer Cosmo Wenman attempted to raise money via Kickstarter to offer 3D-printed blueprints for some of the world's most beloved sculptures at the Skulpturhalle Basel in Switzerland. He was unsuccessful at getting backing on the crowdfunding tool (should have gone with the potato salad, dude), he managed to acquire outside funding and is making his way through the Skulpturhalle's casts of Greek and Roman sculptures.
His Venus de Milo is pretty solid:
A 7th Century Bodhisattva Maitreya
The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a MakerBot hackathon in 2012, encouraging 3D designers to make blueprints for famous works of art. Some of the recreations turned out better than others; replicating works of art on a small scale with plastics is an activity fraught with failure.
Compare the original of the Seated Bodhisattva Maitreya, a sculpture found in Kabul, Afghanistan dating back to the 7th or 8th century, with its unfortunate 3D-printed equivalent. Here's the elegant original:
And the wonky-arse 3D replica:
Lesson learned: not all 3D printing instructions are alike, and sometimes they will make your art recreation look like someone melted a trinket you bought at a flea market in Hawaii.
A Song Dynasty Sculpture
The Asian Art Museum has its own Buddhist art blueprints, with better results. A 3D version of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, a Song Dynasty sculpture of the deity Avalokiteshvara (who represents infinite compassion, which is nice) turned out better than the Met's (though, honestly, still not that great):
The scan was made with Autodesk123D Catch using the iPhone — proof you don't need an especially fancy tool to get a solid 3D roadmap uploaded.
A Moai-Inspired Tray
Of course, part of the fun of 3D printing is putting your own custom spin on things. You can download a traditional representation of the Moai statues famous for dotting Easter Island — or you can choose a version with a twist. Why not, for instance, create a feeding tray for your gecko based on the Moai design? Don't worry: Thingiverse user NerdAler3D already remixed a more traditional model to serve as a feeding station for his son's pet.
You can also make chopsticks with Moai heads as decoration:
The Venus of Willendorf
You can download a traditional version of the Venus of Willendorf, the female statue found in Austria that dates back to 28,000 BC, like this one from Zydac:
Or spice things up with the 'Bunny of Willendorf' by Benito Sanduchi, which is legitimately terrifying:
After seeing the Duchamp chess kit, I was surprised by the paucity of works that aren't extremely old. I can't even track down any Picasso, and my hope that someone would have slapped together a design to make DIY Kara Walker replicas was quickly dashed. Any readers want to conjure a workable blueprint for A Subtlety?