Most art lovers view their favorite artists’ work in a museum, from a distance, framed and hanging on a wall. What if you could remove those boundaries and feel what it’s like to step into the painting – experiencing it as larger than life.
The Imagine Totale© immersive exhibitions are doing just that. Utilizing a proprietary technology, these up close and personal experiences bring viewers to the heart of the creations and allow them to see the works of world-renowned artists in a way they’ve never seen them before.
The Imagine Totale© immersive exhibitions creators Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron want their exhibitions to allow spectators “to experience the emotional depth of the artwork in a much more personal and ethereal way, to feel more deeply connected to the artist.”
The in-person experience starts in the pedagogical room where visitors learn about the artists’ life and work, as well as the Imagine Totale© technology. The journey then takes viewers into the immersive experience where approximately 200 paintings from a particular artist are projected onto surfaces, such as walls and floors, surrounding the viewer in the art. Each exhibit is enhanced with a different soundtrack to add a new dimension to the paintings. The exhibition rooms are no smaller than 3,000 square feet with walls that can be more than 25 feet tall.
“In a traditional museum, visitors have to view the artwork in silence, follow a dictated path, and cannot touch the paintings. And some of the paintings are too high for children to even see,” Mauger says. “Our exhibits allow visitors to share the experience with others. You can walk, dance, run, jump, sing. It’s so different. It helps you to connect yourself to the art we are showing you.”
Imagine Van Gogh, the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale©, has sold more than 500,000 tickets across Canada this past year.
The Image Totale© technology was invented in 1977 by Albert Plécy in Les Baux- de-Provence, South of France “with the aim to enhance the works of artists by freeing their paintings from their frames.” The images were projected onto quarry walls for a “grandiose experience” at a venue they named Cathédrale d’Images.
Annabelle Mauger, the great granddaughter-in-law of Plécy, and Julien Baron partnered with Encore Productions to create their updated version of Image Totale© and opened Imagine Van Gogh in Paris in 2017 with rave reviews. In 2019, they presented a new exhibition paying tribute to Pablo Picasso and are in the middle of the creation process for a new exhibition about Claude Monet.
Some critics criticize immersive exhibitions, complaining that technology can compromise the integrity of the art.
Mauger and Baron argue that the Imagine Totale© technology “not only maintains the integrity of artwork, it also enhances the art itself.” According to a Pew Research poll, 83% of respondents agree that technology enhances the diversity and perception of art.
“Art viewers witness the integrity of every painting,” Mauger says. “Most of the time people disform an image when projecting it. Not with us. Not a single painting is distorted in form or color.”
The technology uses warping techniques that adapt the surface to the projected image rather than adapting the image to the surface. In this way, the integrity is kept intact while allowing the art to be magnified.
In this post-quarantine time, several other immersive Van Gogh experiences have popped up around the country, luring people out of their homes and back into society for a unique experience that allows for some social distancing.
The difference between Imagine Van Gogh and its competitors is preserving the purity and virtue of the original images rather than in displaying artistic renderings. Each has its own audience; Mauger and Baron were adamant about working with art historians and leading experts in the art and careers of the painters whose work they are displaying.
There is no movement, video or animation in the Imagine Totale© immersive experiences, since some might argue that it takes away from the authenticity of what the artist was originally trying to convey.
“Creating movement in the painting is bad,” Mauger says. “You are losing what the painter is doing. You transform the touch of the painting. That’s awful. The original paintings show movement, without having any movement.”
For those who are not overt fans of Van Gogh, Picasso or Monet, Mauger says that it is worth going to experience it anyway. “These experiences allow you see hundreds of paintings. You might find just one you like, even though you didn’t think you liked that painter at all,” she says.
As far as how technology might affect the art industry in the future, Mauger says it will have a positive impact. “The classic museums are now open to immersive experiences. Now museums understand that it will help people go back to the museum to discover the original paintings,” she adds.
Unlike the original immersive experience at Cathédrale d’Images, the Imagine Totale© immersive exhibitions can be seen in various locations worldwide. They exhibits are typically on display for approximately three months before moving on to the next location, which allows for a larger number of visitors to see the attraction.
Imagine Van Gogh is currently on display in Vancouver through Oct. 31, 2021, followed by Saskatoon until Nov. 14 2021 and will then make its U.S. premiere in Boston on Dec. 21 2021, followed by Tacoma, Washington.
Imagine Picasso opened in 2019 in Lyon, France. After visiting Québec, it’s currently on display in Vancouver through Oct. 27, 2021. Their newest exhibition, Imagine Monet, will debut in December 2021 in Montreal and continue on to Edmonton in summer of 2022.
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