LUME-inous: Museum immerses guests in French paintings

All of a sudden, a static masterpiece comes to life.

The wind blows budding branches. Waves crest out at sea. The sun rises over golden hay stacks.

From somewhere, the smell of fresh flowers wafts in.

The works of artists such as Money, Renoir, Cézanne and others become dynamic inside the newest offering from the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. Inside the space known as THE LUME Indianapolis, the world of Impressionist painting awakens in the multi-sensory immersive experience “Monet and Friends Alive.”

With the help of floor-to-ceiling digital projectors, visitors are engulfed in the light, color and sound of 19th-century France.

“It’s an invitation to get people to explore art,” said Jonathan Berger, vice president of marketing and external affairs at Newfields. “Art museums can be a little intimidating for people, where you have to whisper like in a library. This is a way to demystify art and present it in a way that’s very consumable.”

THE LUME is the result of an ambitious multi-year effort by Newfields to offer a one-of-a-kind experience at the museum. Newfields officials worked with Grande Experience, an Australian company specializing in immersive art and large-scale exhibitions. Over five years, Newfields has researched innovative digital exhibitions in Asia, Australia and Europe, gauging how those museums created immersive exhibitions and how the concept could be brought to Indianapolis.

The research demonstrated how digital projection technology and celebrated works of art can be joined to appeal to new audiences.

The fourth floor of the Indianapolis Museum of Art was completely reimagined to support this vision. In massive galleries, 150 high-definition projectors display a rotating collection of images and artwork.

The exhibit will be the largest continuous exhibition space in the museum’s 139-year history, part of museum leadership’s goal of reaching new audiences through innovation.

Last year, the museum unveiled an immersive look at Vincent van Gogh’s art in the debut of THE LUME Indianapolis. More than 235,000 people came through the exhibit over the course of the year. Organizers wanted to expand on that momentum.

“Now we’re going to take that deeper dive into Monet and that entire Impressionist movement,” Berger said.

In “Monet and Friends Come Alive,” the looping projection is broken into three phases: Metropolitan, A Day in the Life and En Plein Air. Through various artists’ work and accompanying music, the program explores how the Impressionists approached the world around them.

In-between those different sections, solid colors will fill the galleries, helping to accentuate the Impressionist relationship with color.

“We’re going to explore the sound of color. You’re going to see these color washes that turn out very soothing,” Berger said.

People can pose on the recreation of the bridge spanning a water lilly-speckled small pond that Monet painted so often. They can sit in the representation of a Parisian cafe, sampling locally made pastries or a signature “LUME and tonic,” complete with a flower encased in an ice cube.

“As they melt, the flowers open up to this beautiful display,” said Lindsay Jo Whirley, Newfields culinary arts operations manager. “We get a different arrangement of local flowers in each week for this.”

In a section called Monet and Play, people can step into a selfie station to snap a photo of themselves that is filtered to look like an Impressionist painting. A touchscreen digital timeline gives background on the history and art world of the 19th century. To flex your own creativity, add some color to an erasable mural.

“Our guest behavior has really been shifting over the past six months, and our guests, especially families, are wanting more tactile, hands-on things. We wanted to support that for year two (of THE LUME),” said Wednesday Reese, interpretation planner at Newfields.

Towards the end of the exhibit, guests can see actual examples of the artwork that had been projected around THE LUME galleries.

Paintings from the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s own collection, including Paul Cézanne’s “Landscape at Auvers, Farm Entrance on the Rue St. Remy,” “Bouquet in a Vase” by Pierre Renoir and Monet’s own “Charing Cross Bridge, London” hang on the walls, allowing people to more closely examine the detail of these master painters.

“To flesh out the digital experience, we always want to have a few real artworks, so people can get up close and see the real thing,” said Annette Schlagenhauff, curator of European art. “Part of the goal is to look at what we have in our collection, and pull as many artworks by the most renowned of the Impressionist painters, that loose group of painters that really revolutionized art in the late 19th century.”

IF YOU GO

“Monet & Friends Alive”

What: The next installment of THE LUME Indianapolis, which brings visitors into an immersive experience centered around the art of Claude Monet and other Impressionist artists.

Where: Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, 4000 Michigan Ave.

When: Opened July 3

Tickets: Admission is now on sale for THE LUME. Costs are $29 for adults, $25 for seniors ages 55+, $20 for youth ages 6-17. Children under 5 are free.

Information: discovernewfields.org


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