Acres of water lilies will bloom on Wall Street this fall, at least digitally.
A massive, immersive exhibition celebrating French artist Claude Monet will make its US debut in downtown New York starting in November, promising a multisensory experience that puts visitors as close to inside his iconic flower paintings as possible.
“Monet’s Garden: The Immersive Experience” will splash the Impressionist pioneer’s paintings across walls and floors of a spacious, one-time bank building and boost the effect by adding scents, music and narration in multiple language.
“To be able to address more than just two senses I think will immerse people a bit more,” said Dr. Nepomuk Schessl, producer of the exhibition. “We certainly hope it’s going to be the next big thing.”
Visitors will be greeted by aromas of lavender and water lilies wafting in the air and learn much about Monet, who during his long life evolved from a gifted but slightly conventional landscape painter churning out realistic images to a painter whose feathery brushstrokes captured shifting light, atmosphere and movement.
“He was living right at the moment when photography was invented. So the whole world of art changed,” said Schessl of Monet, who lived from 1840-1926. “Painting was not needed for documentary reasons anymore.”
The exhibit will offer many of Monet’s works, which vary from the rocky coastline of Normandy to haystacks and poplars, to the Japanese bridge and water lily-filled pond at his home in Giverny.
The exhibit begins Nov. 1 at the Seamen’s Bank Building at 30 Wall Street and runs until Jan. 8. Tickets are on sale now, and Schessl hopes it will tour the US in 2023.
The concept for “Monet’s Garden” was developed by the Swiss creative lab Immersive Art AG in cooperation with Alegria Konzert GmbH. It has been shown in European cities such as Berlin, Zurich and Vienna and will have upcoming engagements in Hamburg and London.
In some ways, Schessl thinks a massive, 360-degree presentation of Monet's works fits with the artist's own intentions. After all, some of his paintings were intentionally massive.
“He wanted the spectator to completely immerse himself or herself into the painting,” he said. “Maybe it's a little bit presumptuous, but I think that if he had our opportunity, he might have done it.”
“Monet’s Garden” comes a year after dueling traveling immersive exhibits of Van Gogh arrived in New York and also married his work with technology. Gustav Klimt's paintings have also been made immersive.
Schessl said technology — especially stronger processing power and high-tech LCD laser projectors — make these immersive exhibits possible. He admits to checking out rival shows to ensure his team stays cutting edge, but he adheres to one rule.
“The content needs to be the star. The technology is our means to achieve something, but it never should only be the technology,” he said.