Digital immersion: seeing the works in a new light

Virtual reality and interaction are at the heart of a new way of consuming art. A spectacular offer supposed to attract a new audience, and better export.

New York, Madrid, Brussels… Over the past year, new immersive arts centers have been springing up in major cities. Latest: the immersive Grand Palais in Paris, places that offer varied digital exhibitions bringing new points of view on works of art.

In image and music

“We are not a museum!”, warns Grégoire Monnier, director of Culturespaces Digital in charge in particular, in France, of the Atelier des Lumières. The lack of explanations about the authors of the paintings is a completely assumed choice: “We want to appeal to the emotions of visitors,” he explains. “We interpret the artists’ works in an entertaining and subjective way,” he adds.

From the floor to the ceiling of a former Parisian foundry or a disused New York bank, a hundred video projectors broadcast 150 to 300 works by an artist such as Van Gogh, Kandinsky or even Klimt. A staging between 10 and 30 minutes, where the spectator is enveloped by a pictorial universe and an original soundtrack. This is the immersive formula offered by Culturespaces Digital in eight cities around the world, including Paris, New York and Seoul.

The tickets, modeled on the entrance price of the major Parisian museums such as Orsay or the Louvre, do not discourage visitors, who are “more than a million” each year to cross the threshold of the Atelier des Lumières in Paris. Culturespaces Digital wants to attract a public not accustomed to art venues to its establishments: “Fifty percent of visitors declare that they do not go to the museum,” says Grégoire Monnier.

Scientific procedure

For its part, the Immersive Grand Palais, a subsidiary of the Grand Palais which opened its doors in Paris at the end of September in the modular hall of the Opéra Bastille, is betting on a hybrid offer between entertainment and knowledge. In addition to a fun immersion in the city of Venice, visitors can also learn about the construction of the City of the Doges. Information supervised by a scientific committee of the Fondazione Musei Civici of Venice, which brings together eleven museums of the “floating city”.

To reconstruct on the walls of the Immersive Grand Palace the Grand Canal of Venice and its most sumptuous palaces, in particular the Doge’s Palace, “more than 300,000 photos” were taken, affirms Yves Ubelmann, the president of the Iconem company, at the origin of the project. The objective of the Immersive Grand Palace is to offer visitors “trajectories impossible to follow in reality” and, by extension, to “cross the walls” of the Doge’s Palace, explains Roei Amit, the director of the Immersive Grand Palace.

A track for museums?

The Louvre, the Arab World Institute and other cultural institutions have already taken the step of digital immersion in temporary exhibitions in virtual reality or in projection. In 2019, the Louvre thus presented its first immersive experience on the Mona Lisa during an exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci: under a virtual reality helmet, the visitor could admire the Mona Lisa from every angle and was transported with Mona Lisa to the time of Leonardo da Vinci.

We want to appeal to the emotions of visitors

Immersive modules that respond to visitors’ “desires for narration and desires for storytelling”, explains Dominique de Font-Réaulx, director of mediation and cultural programming at the Louvre. And which have enriched the museum’s ways of working: the immersion “led us to do new research” on the Mona Lisa, she says, in particular “on the way she was dressed, dressed”.

The only constraint of the Parisian museum is not technical, but academic: to maintain its level of scientific rigor, “we can only do it on works on which we have a lot, a lot of information”. For the Louvre, there is “no competition” between the physical works and these new digital exhibitions, since “all the people who have seen these projects want to see or see the real work again”, concludes Dominique de Font -Reaulx.

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Digital immersion: seeing the works in a new light


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