A single small rain cloud hovering in space, a giant clown-like figure floating in New York’s Times Square, and a balloon rabbit larger than a tree standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. What do these three famous artworks have in common? None of them are actually real. 

Extended reality technologies are nothing new. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been used by artists for decades. VR was a hot topic for a while, with major technological advancements paving the way for exciting creative possibilities. However, the limitation of expensive specialized headsets has provoked a shift in focus from VR to its more accessible relative, AR. 

With the convenience of modern smartphones already having built-in AR capabilities, it’s easy to see the appeal. AR creates the layering of virtual images onto the real world, as opposed to total immersion in the virtual. In this manner, the imaginative possibilities to transform our environment are endless, allowing artists to create immersive creative experiences with their art. 

Below are 5 of our favorite famous examples of augmented reality artwork that highlight the possibilities of 3D objects in the wild, and will hopefully get you feeling inspired to get your art (literally) out into the world. If you're feeling ready to create, why not submit to our AR brief with Facebook's Spark AR for the chance to win $2,000.

1. Olafur Eliasson | WUNDERKAMMER 

Olafur Eliasson’s WUNDERKAMMER is a collection of 10 digitally rendered sculptures, including a boiling sun, a rain cloud, and the Aurora Borealis northern lights, maintaining Eliasson's artistic themes of sustainability and connection to nature. Available via an augmented reality art app, the artwork is virtually placed around your environment from your phone. From there you are also able to adjust the shadow angle and light intensity to match the light in your space, or light up the artwork at night via the app’s ‘night mode’. 

2. Nancy Baker Cahill | LIBERTY BELL 

Liberty Bell is a public art project by artist Nancy Baker Cahill that utilizes augmented reality. The richly textured drawing hovers beyond the viewer and sways with the layered sounds of bells tolling, casting AR shadows across the water. Geolocated at a series of sites and accessible via smartphone, the project marks the intersection of public art, social consciousness, and tech.

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This AR project sees Brian Donnelly’s signature KAWS Companion character, a grey-scale clown-like figure inspired by Mickey Mouse, covering his eyes and floating above famous locations in 12 major cities. The app saw 250,000 downloads following the launch of “EXPANDED HOLIDAY”, with smaller-scale editions of the AR artwork also available to buy or rent. 

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4. Shantell Martin | Augmented Reality Drawing

Shantell Martin is a visual artist best known for her large-scale, black and white drawings. Moving her artwork into augmented reality, the project saw her quite literally draw in the air. The artwork encourages the audience to see the world as a canvas, taking the simple idea of a line and using it to take up space and create new landscapes. 

5. Jeff Koons | Augmented Reality World Lenses 

Famed artist Jeff Koons ventured into the world of augmented reality for a worldwide virtual art installation in 2017. Koons built Lenses for Snapchat that used some of his most famous sculptures: Balloon Dog (Yellow), Balloon Swan, Rabbit, Popeye, and Play-Doh. These augmented reality artworks were then exhibited in major parks and landmarks around the world, allowing users to hover their phone over the global landmark and see the sculptures as if they were actually there.

To keep the conversation going, a group of NY based artists "vandalized" the balloon installations, too.

Feeling inspired? Get stuck into our new AR creative brief with Spark AR.