Fearing monumental gimmickry, I was wary about visiting Paris’s much-lauded new blockbuster attraction, the Atelier des Lumières, billed as a “digital museum.” Why is a screen needed to look at great art; why not just look at the art itself? I have to admit, however, that I was greatly impressed by the quality and beauty of the three presentations.
The shows effectively cover every inch of the walls and floors of the former foundry the Atelier des Lumières is located in, accompanied by appropriate music or sound effects. Visitors can wander around the main floor to watch the show or get a bird’s-eye view from the balcony. A smaller, close-up view of the monumental images being projected can be seen inside a circular structure in the center of the room.
The main attraction is the “immersive exhibition” on the world of Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and other Viennese artists of his time, including Egon Schiele (1890-1918).
Leader of the Viennese Secession, Klimt was a great choice for the Atelier’s first show, with the decorative nature of much of his work and his jewel-like colors. But before showing his work, the exhibition sets the stage with images of turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna and at one magical moment turns the Atelier’s space into the interior of a palace, first in black-and-white then in color.
A shorter program focuses on Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000), another Austrian artist (and architect), whose work was influenced by that of Klimt and echoed his predecessor’s brilliant colors and decorative patterns. Hundertwasser’s work seems especially well-suited to the digital manipulation it undergoes here.
These two shows continue until January 6, 2019, but a third program changes more often. I saw a snazzy abstract black-and-white piece called “Poetic_AI” (by digital animation agency Ouchhh, with sound by Audiofil), which used artificial intelligence to create images, but from September 7 to January 6, a new program called “Colours X Colours” (by French artists Thomas Blanchard and Oilhack) offers macro images of paint interacting with canvas as artworks are made. This video is being shown in a smaller space called Le Studio, which also serves as a café.
The spectacular Klimt and Hundertwasser programs were made by Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi, with musical collaboration by Luca Longobardi. Though they aren’t on hand to hear it, their work is applauded by visitors at the end of each program. One wonders what the artists themselves would have thought of this treatment of their work. My guess is that they, too, would have appreciated it.
Next stop: Vienna, to see the originals.