This January I attended the Beyond Monet: Immersive Experience featuring 400 paintings of the 19th century French painter.
While walking across a vast empty room shrouded in darkness toward a large black curtain, I didn’t know what to expect. I understood from my time talking to my friend who maps the stars that the exhibit was providing us the opportunity to get our eyes into night-vision so that we could see as much as possible within lowlight.
There was an introduction room leading into the exhibit that showcased a compilation of facts and quotes regarding Claude Monte’s life and motivation for painting. This space was beautiful with the walls and floor enveloped in deep blues and greens from one of his Water Lily paintings.
Two walk-bridges provided beautiful interactive pieces to encourage participation and welcoming ways of engaging with the exhibit, which allowed individual creativity to make the experience personal.
I appreciated the functionality of the next room. Participants passed through a series of ribbons draping from the ceiling so that our eyes would focus on the changing textures and see three-dimensional objects purposefully flattened by low light and low contrast. Thanks to this installation, my eyes were practiced in searching out visual depth on a flattened plane, which increased the depth of the moving paintings within the main exhibit.
Nearing the main immersion experience, peaceful music welcomed participants from around a darked corner. The room was full of people. I entered the display at a time of deep greens and blues covering the floor and walls. The projected color washed over the people in a watery glow. The scenes fed onto the floor seamlessly, so one felt to be floating among the lily pads.
There were many cushions for seating speckled around the grand room. And in the center was a gazebo with stairs leading to four entrances, approachable from any of the four walls. Many people stood inside the gazebo and sat on the stairs, watching the projected paintings perform.
Many participants walked slowly in pace with the moving paintings to different places for a change in perspective by height or position in the room.
The gazebo was brought into the paintings by the natural environments of the paintings, but also by the occasional shadows dropped upon the floor to line up with the gazebo posts, with shadows growing like a setting sun reaching twilight.
All the sounds accompanying the scenes brought the environment to life; when the train slowly arrived at the platform or when it was departing, the steam billowed as though the paint was moving, and the steam train horn resounded over the music. And the sound of seagulls and waves added a layer of interaction with the scenes of beaches, lighthouses, and ports full of boats.
One painted scene smoothly faded into the next scene by expertly blended transitions. The entire show progressed at an enamoring pace, which was slow enough to allow the eye to wonder around the paintings without missing the transition to the next scene.
In addition to the soothing French songs and the peaceful instrumental music, there was a delicate chatter of joyful people. This enhanced my experience by adding a warming hospitality for everyone to engage with the environment. It was a direct reflection of the production team that people felt valued and welcomed enough to walk around, knowing that a whisper to a friend while planning the next perspective or a gasp of awe and a short comment on the scene would not disturb fellow participants. Although everyone was keeping with respectfully hushed voices, there was a sense that the people were as welcome in the space as the paintings, themselves.
Beyond Monet is a peaceful and engaging projected performance of the paintings of Claude Monet worthy to be consider a once in a lifetime experience. While I saw this exhibit at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, WI, it was a wonderful experience I plan on repeating before it’s gone.
Get your tickets at BeyondMonet.com
I am not a sponsored spokesmen of Beyond Monet and am not affiliated with the production in anyway.