Look Out, Van Gogh! ‘Mona Lisa’ Is Getting Her Own Immersive Experience—and It’s Been Engineered by the Louvre Itself

The museum is partnering with the Grand Palais, which is also planning a permanent space dedicated to immersive digital art as part of a new renovation.

"La Joconde," an immersive digital light show by Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, is coming to Marseilles thanks the Louvre and the Grand Palais in Paris. Photo ©Mardi8, Artisans d’idées.

Two of Paris’s most renowned cultural institutions, the Louvre and the Grand Palais, are teaming up to stage an immersive digital light show in Marseilles inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The exhibition is part of the new Grand Palais Immersif initiative, which will bring similar art experiences to venues around the world in a bid to capitalize on the craze for “Immersive Van Gogh” and other animated projections based on famous works from art history.

The line between art and entertainment has become increasingly blurry with the rise of such exhibitions, which can draw huge crowds but have been savaged by some art critics.

Nevertheless, the Grand Palais is so committed to the immersive digital experience that the venue will soon have an entire dedicated space for such multimedia exhibitions.

The historic museum complex closed its doors at the start of 2021 for planned renovations, set to be completed in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Currently, it is staging shows in the Grand Palais Éphémère, a €40 million ($46.8 million) temporary building.

A virtual 3D reconstruction of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch. © Iconem, DGAM.

A virtual 3D reconstruction of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch. © Iconem, DGAM.

Grand Palais Immersif is being overseen by the government organization that runs the venue, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, with the state-owned Banque des Territoires and property developer Vinci Immobilier, according to the Art Newspaper.

The trend for all things immersive and digital has been on the Grand Palais’s radar for years now.

In 2016, it partnered with UNESCO to host “Eternal Sites: From Bamiyan to Palymra.” The show featured 360 degree video footage of Khorsabad in Iraq, Kerak Castle in Jordan, Palmyra in Syria, and the Umayyad Mosque in Syria—four World Heritage sites that were unsafe to visit due to ongoing military conflicts.

That show provided “a new exhibition production model” for the institution, Chris Dercon, the president of RMN-Grand Palais, told TAN.

"Pompeii," an immersive digital exhibition at the Grand Palais staged in conjunction with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Photo by Didier Plowy for the Rmn-Grand Palais, ©Sylvain Roca.

“Pompeii,” an immersive digital exhibition at the Grand Palais staged in conjunction with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Photo by Didier Plowy for the Rmn-Grand Palais, ©Sylvain Roca.

The Mona Lisa experience (officially titled “La Joconde,” the painting’s title in French) opens at the Palais de la Bourse in Marseille on March 10. Vincent Delieuvin, the Louvre’s chief curator of paintings, serves as the show’s scientific advisor with set design by Sylvain Roca.

Billed on the Grand Palais website as “a unique interactive and sensory experience” that will “reveal what earned this painting its immense fame,” the show aims to help viewers “capture its essence and better understand the genius of its creator.”

General admission tickets are €14.50 ($16.50), or €11 ($12.50) for early purchasers—a relative bargain compared to “Immersive Van Gogh,” where VIP entry at peak times can run up to $100 per person. (There are no premium “La Joconde” tickets.)

"Pompeii," an immersive digital exhibition at the Grand Palais staged in conjunction with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Photo by Didier Plowy for the Rmn-Grand Palais, ©Sylvain Roca.

“Pompeii,” an immersive digital exhibition at the Grand Palais staged in conjunction with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. Photo by Didier Plowy for the Rmn-Grand Palais, ©Sylvain Roca.

Grand Palais Immersif is also staging a traveling show in conjunction with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, curated by the historic city’s director, Massimo Osanna, and head archaeologist, Luana Toniolo. The show debuted at the Grand Palais in July 2020, ahead of the renovation closure.

The future line-up includes an exhibition with the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, a show on Alphonse Mucha organized with the Mucha Foundation in Prague, and a collaboration with the tech startup Iconem, which did the 3-D imagery for “Eternal Sites.”

“La Joconde” will be on view at the Palais de la Bourse, 9 La Canebière, 13001, Marseille, March 10–August 21, 2022.


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