Get ready for the Claude Monet experience. Or rather, the Claude Monet experiences.
Not one, not two, but three separate traveling immersive exhibitions based on the famed Impressionist’s paintings are currently gearing up—and one could be headed to a city near you.
Technically, the trend of turning famous art into walk-in light shows is nothing new: Van Gogh-themed shows of this nature date to 2008, and Cross Media Group staged the “Monet Experience” in Florence in 2017. Still, buoyed by the appearance of a Starry Night light show in the hit Netflix series Emily in Paris, 2021 so far has been the year of Van Gogh, with five distinct Van Gogh pop-ups competing in close to 50 spaces across the U.S., last time we counted.
Now, Monet lovers have their own palette of pop-up experiences to chose from.
First, there’s “Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience,” which has already appeared in Brussels, Barcelona, and Turin, and is currently on view in Naples, Italy. It’s slated to touch down in both Los Angeles and Chicago (as well as York in the U.K. and Hangzhou, China). General admission starts at $36.
The show is produced by Exhibition Hub and Fever, the companies behind “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” which is on view in New York through October 24. (That exhibition actually prompted the New York Better Business Bureau to issue a warning to consumers that this was not Van Gogh as seen in Emily in Paris. Midnight Publishing Group News critic Ben Davis deemed it the lesser of the city’s two Van Gogh experiences.)
In terms of its attractions, “Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience” sounds very similar to “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.” It centers on a 35-minute light projection show digitizing 300 paintings and sketches by the artist, as well as a reproduction of Monet’s home in Giverney. Visitors can also take a 10-minute VR journey through his paintings and to places that Monet visited in his lifetime, such as London and the Netherlands. For children, there’s a “Sketch and Post” gallery where they can make drawings or complete coloring book versions of Monet paintings to add to a digital display.
Next up, there’s “Monet by the Water,” which claims to be “the world’s largest Monet experience.” It will feature over 250 paintings in an hour-long audiovisual show designed to be staged inside a five-story circus tent outfitted with 26-foot-high projection screens.
It’s produced by Ricardo Dotta and is the first project from his company MIRA, short for the Museum of Immersive Roaming Arts. The exhibition will open in San Francisco this December, and has stops planned for Minneapolis, Atlanta, Seattle, Miami, Denver, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, followed by Dotta’s home country of Brazil.
Finally, we have “Beyond Monet,” produced by Beyond Exhibitions Inc. and Normal Studio, a projection-mapping outfit in Montreal. This is the same team behind the traveling “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” seen at venues from Miami to Portland, so expect the Monet version multiply soon. (It is currently on view in Toronto.)
“Beyond Monet” promises 400 paintings, including Impression: Sunrise and works from the “Haystacks” and “Water Lilies” series, in a 36-minute show displayed across 50,000 square feet, plus an original score. The three-part show is spread across the “Garden Gallery,” “The Prism,” and “The Infinity Room,” an oval-shaped space inspired by the presentation of Monet’s work in two elliptical spaces at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris that the artist specifically designed for a cycle of seven monumental “Water Lilies” canvases.
Lending the experience a modicum of academic respectability, both “Beyond Van Gogh” and “Beyond Monet” engaged Montreal art historian Fanny Curtat as a consultant. And while critics have questioned the immersive Van Gogh trend given the artist’s well-documented struggles with depression and mental illness, the leisure-loving Monet may be a better fit for the immersive treatment.
Monet had a vision of a room filled wall-to-wall with his water lily canvases, which he produced at enormous scale. “Carried along the length of the walls, enveloping the entire interior with its unity, it would produce the illusion of an endless whole, of a watery surface with no horizon and no shore,” Monet wrote to the art critic Claude Roger-Marx in 1909, in a passage noted the Toronto Star in its “Beyond Monet” review.
In an interview with Frenchly, “Monet on the Water” impresario Ricardo Dotta also emphasized that the experience was true to its inspiration. “[Monet] was basically a pioneer for immersion. He wanted to put people inside his amazing art,” he said. “In a small way, we are continuing his work.”
See more photos from the three shows below.
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