After paying more than $40 for a single adult ticket, a middle-aged blond woman in a maroon cardigan hovered by a scanner that converts the outlines of the flowers and water lilies she’d just colored with markers into digital works of art.
Next to the scanner, draped and surrounded by fake flowers, was a life-size reproduction of the famous Japanese bridge that Impressionist painter Claude Monet fondly depicted in his iconic, much-loved paintings of water lilies. After a stroke, the woman’s water lily design appeared on the pond-shaped blue screen installed under the bridge and began to float lazily.
“It feels like I’m back in kindergarten!” she exclaimed, aptly summarizing the innocent sweetness of the overall atmosphere.
Amid the densely packed skyscrapers that make up Lower Manhattan, Seamen’s Bank Building currently plays host to the pastel fantasy that Monet’s Garden: The Immersive Experiencethe latest in a series of immersive playgrounds emerging in the wake of the 2021 series of dueling immersive Van Gogh exhibitions. This fall, New York City also welcomes the immersive King Tut, encanto and Gustav Klimt exhibitions, which begs the question: what? can not become an immersive exhibition?
Van Gogh’s blockbuster ventures certainly weren’t the first platforms to take advantage of immersive programming, but they were wildly successful. Lighthouse Immersive, the company behind “Immersive Van Gogh,” collected about $250 million in ticket revenue from that show, in addition to $30 million in gift shop sales, producer Corey Ross told MarketWatch last December.
Monet’s garden is the result of a collaboration between the Swiss creative labs Immersive Art AG and Alegria Konzert GmbH; unlike the hallowed halls of a museum, immersive exhibits are designed to delight their audiences without evoking sour feelings of intimidation.
“Today you can’t educate your visitors without entertaining them,” Dr. Nepomuk Schessl, the producer of Monet’s Garden, told The Daily Beast. “Monet painted the water lily decorations himself in such a large format because he wanted the viewer to feel immersed in them,” Schessl said, adding that Monet’s Garden was already in production before the immersive Van Gogh exhibits became successful. “This is a logical next step.”
Towards the end of his life, Monet settled in the French village of Giverny to focus on improving his art and cultivated a Japanese garden complete with a pond next to his farm that became the inspiration for the Instagram-optimized environment in which I now sit .
Monet ended up creating paintings inspired by the water lilies in his garden for 30 years, many of which are housed in the Orangerie Museum in Paris. Water lilies speckle on almost every item for sale in the Monet Experience gift shop, right down to $10 hand-held fans and $35 scented candles.
The showstopper element of the Monet experience is on the ground floor of the bank building. After being given a cushion to sit on, visitors enter a cavernous space made up of huge screens (everywhere except the ceiling) and experience a 45-minute, enthusiastically narrated visual speedrun through the artist’s creative eras, personal issues and evolving aesthetic tastes.
“When I look at a photo of Monet, it feels compelling. It’s about the light and your ability to lose yourself, and it doesn’t feel that way here.”
— Gary, from London
“When I look at a Monet photo, it feels riveting. It’s about the light and your ability to lose yourself, and it doesn’t feel that way here,” said Gary, a huge Monet fan and marathon runner who ran from London. visited The Daily Beast.
While this author appreciated on some level the rousing music and shape-shifting graphics that spice up the melting slideshow of Monet’s work, at times the show felt like you were trapped in a very loud Wikipedia page.
After mounting an escalator, the second floor reveals a floor covered with artificial grass. Each wall is covered in fake greenery and more fake flowers trickle over several green park benches, while swirling digital animations of Monet’s paintings flicker on the wall.
Around the corner you’ll find the Instagram-friendly bridge and scan station, as well as a number of scannable QR codes that launch AI versions of Monet paintings to your Instagram story and a cluster of small galleries that showcase the bullet points of Monet’s life and career in addition to smaller reproductions of his paintings. The scents of lavender and water lilies are discreetly pumped into the room.
“Another body-detecting installation transforms your figure into a flurry of colorful pixels that writhe and transform as you move; every kid I saw dealing with it loved it. ”
When you dance in a room next to the Japanese bridge in a certain spot marked on the floor, a screen full of swirling colors reacts to your movements, creating a charming visual effect. At another angle, another body-detecting installation transforms your figure into a flurry of colorful pixels that writhe and transform as you move; every kid I saw dealing with it loved it.
Camila Diaz, an 18-year-old freshman at Columbia University, visited the Monet exhibit with two friends on Monday. Diaz loved the immersive Van Gogh installation she had been to last year, and also planned to go to the immersive Klimt experience.
“The explanation of Monet’s life and his personal history was very well done, but I would have liked to see more paintings in the area,” Diaz told The Daily Beast. “But the exhibition is very beautiful and really captures the essence of the garden. I love Monet, he is my favorite painter and his art is so soothing.”
“Seeing Monet’s paintings from afar gives you a different perspective,” Marina, a 48-year-old visitor from Montevideo, Uruguay, told The Daily Beast.
This may be part of the problem in building an immersive exhibition around Monet’s work. When 40-foot-tall reproductions of his haystacks are inches from your nose, they look a bit like blobs in my opinion, meaning it’s best to view his work from a distance.
When I presented this criticism to Dr. Schessl, he repeated the aforementioned points. Monet himself already painted his water lily decorations in such large formats, as they hang in the Orangerie in Paris, for example, because he wanted the viewer of his art to be surrounded and immersed in the motif and become one with it. Immersion was already part of his own concept. The modern capabilities of an immersive installation like this seem like a very logical and consistent next step in the way he presents his art.”
However, for this author, the Monet exhibition was not as impressive as simply standing in front of his paintings and letting the effect wash over you.
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