Can viewing art digitally ever be as good as poring over the brush-strokes of the real thing? The thrilling close-ups of Chagall’s Paris Opera ceiling recently projected onto a screen at the city’s Philharmonie convinced this art lover it really could, and now the Atelier des Lumieres, the city’s latest and greatest attraction, proves that looking at highly-detailed images through a magnifying lens and state of the art projectors is the way to go.
The venue for this new initiative from private museum operator Culturespaces is a 2,000 square-metre former foundry near the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery. Overwhelming in scale, it has been converted with the help of 140 laser video projectors and 50 turbo-powered speakers into a huge digital palace for bringing the world’s most acclaimed and detailed works of art to life. It’s an immersive experience in the truest sense of the word as you walk into the heart of a great landscape and experience every blade of grass, each and every wildflower blazed across the floor and 10-metre-high walls. They move constantly, shifting round corners and landing on tables, seating areas and columns as well as walls and floor; wander at will or get comfortable in one spot without fear of missing out.
Klimt, as you have never seen this master of romantic portraits and exquisite pastoral scenes, is a logical opening offer in this thrilling new house of light and magic. For the artist who created the world’s most popular painting, The Kiss, was as obsessed with decorative detail – circles, whorls, chequers, serpents, satyrs and chains of maidens resembling paper cut-out dolls – as the oceans of gold leaf backdrop he favoured. These gems of divine accessorisation cry out to be enlarged and brought to the viewer’s attention in a way that can’t happen in a gallery where one is simply dazzled by the overall creations of the king of glitz.
It’s a history lesson, too – whisking viewers through 19th century Vienna from the Kunsthistoriches Museum where Klimt started out painting pre-Raphaelite-style murals to the Secession building emblazoned with his world-famous frieze to the Belvedere Palace, where The Kiss and a host of memorable portraits and landscapes have a permanent home. If you can’t get to Vienna, this is the next best thing, especially as you get some figures by Klimt’s contemporary Egon Schiele thrown in; this exhibition marks the anniversary of both their deaths. Wagner, Strauss, Beethoven, Mahler and others provide a stirring soundtrack.
The Klimt celebration is the longest film of three – another is devoted to the lesser-known, but no less colourful Viennese architect and painter Hundertwasser – which play in a continuous loop; you need at least 45 minutes to see the whole show, and may well want to stay and see it around again. Allow half an hour in each direction for Metro transport back into the city centre; as the guidebooks say, Atelier des Lumieres is most definitely “worth the detour”.
Note: The Klimt show is scheduled to run until January 6, 2019. Book online, as the ticket office closes early, but the show goes on until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, Sundays till 7pm.
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38 rue St Maur
Eurostar serves Paris from London and Kent from £69 return.