In Arts + Entertainment

Australia’s First Immersive Digital Art Gallery Arrives 2020

A riot of colour, a symphony of sound; Melbourne’s dazzling new digital art gallery is getting ready to illuminate the darkness and leave visitors utterly spellbound.

Opening in the South Melbourne area in Autumn 2020, The Lume is a big deal for art lovers. An Australian first, it’s an immersive, multi-sensory experience designed to change how people view, appreciate and interact with some of the greatest artworks ever created.

Five years in the making, the ambitious $15 million project from Grande Exhibitions – a tour de force in the touring art world – sounds like a visual extravaganza. With 150 state-of-the-art digital projections all choreographed to a cinematic score, every corner of the cavernous 2,000 square metre space, the walls and even its floors, will come alive in a blaze of colour.

Though comparisons to the wildly-popular Japanese digital art collective teamLab will inevitably spring to mind, the two experiences are actually very different beasts.

Where teamLab combines art, science and technology to create their mind-bending original artworks and installations, The Lume instead looks to the past for its inspiration. It presents the great masterpieces of old, and the story behind them, in a new and compelling way.

French post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh will be the first cab off the rank, with his bold, free-spirited use of colour and broad brushstrokes – seen in iconic artworks such as The Starry Night, Almond Blossoms and Irises – the perfect showcase for the new format.

After years devoted to developing the tech needed to bring it to life, The Lume will be the realisation of a long-held dream for its Australian founder and CEO Bruce Peterson.

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Since 2006, Grande Exhibition’s travelling exhibits have been showcased in around 130 cities and 32 languages to an audience of more than 15 million people. However, they’ve never had a permanent space of this scale in which to truly flex their muscles. Until now.

More than just setting up a permanent exhibition space for Grande in his hometown of Melbourne though, Peterson is hoping to establish an iconic new attraction for the city itself. The exact location is still a closely guarded secret at this stage, but it’s believed to be somewhere in the Southbank area, within walking distance of the CBD.

“It’s the next generation of the world we’ve been doing for the last 14 years,” Peterson says. “We’ve been working on The Lume for the best part of five years, searching for the right venue and also developing the skills and creative needed to be realise our vision.

“It really is a sensory overload. As you wander through the space you become immersed in it, looking at things from a new perspective. The best way to describe it is like walking into a room with 150 IMAX screens moving all around you in a synchronised dance.

“Your sense of space, the visuals, the sound, and even the aroma… it’s something people have never experienced before in terms of immersion into an artistic environment.”

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The first exhibition will delve into the story behind van Gogh’s most prolific 10 years: the ups and downs of his life as an artist, his own mental challenges, and the period when he created some of the most beautiful and thought-provoking works of his career.

If you’re concerned about ‘not getting it’, don’t be. Peterson says the experience has been designed to allow people of all levels to engage with art and culture in a non-threatening and inclusive way. You can come to enjoy the art without having to fully understand it.

“What it’s about is bridging the gap between where a lot of people are at in terms of their art and culture knowledge, and what traditional museums and art galleries are offering.

“Whether you’re a five-year-old rolling around on the floor under projections or an art lover wanting to get lost in the finer details of an art collection you may not otherwise have easy access to, The Lume is intended to offer a unique experience for every kind of visitor.”

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At this stage, there are no plans to feature original artworks, which Peterson says would only confuse their storytelling approach. But, really, who needs original content when you have a treasure trove of iconic artworks waiting to be reinvented and rediscovered.

The initial Vincent van Gogh exhibition is expected to continue through to the end of 2020. After that, it’ll change roughly every six months depending on demand, with da Vinci and Edgar Degas just two of the other artists rumoured to feature in the near future.

Whichever artist is on display, it’s set to be an enlightening experience.

(All images: Concept renders of The Lume / supplied)

Published 20 November, 2019