With her questioning eyes and enigmatic smile, the Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Renaissance maestro Leonardo da Vinci began painting the portrait aged 48 at the height of his fame, and tinkered away with it until his death in his relentless quest to capture her animated character on a poplar panel.
Grand Palais Immersif’s latest multisensory art show – The Mona Lisa: An Immersive Exhibition – at the Palais de la Bourse in Marseille invites visitors to see the famous painting with fresh eyes and discover the woman behind the myth by diving inside da Vinci’s mind.
Boasting a ‘landscape-skin’ that envelops the entire exhibition space, visitors meander through instructive and contemplative visual narratives inspired by the landscapes in da Vinci’s most famous works, including The Virgin of the Rocks, with each section recounting the stories and process behind the iconic painting.
Keen to get up close and personal with La Gioconda, thought leader Thibault Paquin, founder of Celebrating Life, a total destination consultancy specialised in tourism, leisure and cultural assets, headed down to the Palais de la Bourse to experience the masterpiece in an exciting new light.
What happened during the experience?
- Last year saw the opening of two major attractions in Provence – Rocher Mistral and Luma Arles – while this year Southern France cemented its status as an arts and culture powerhouse. Proving its mettle, Grand Palais Immersif chose to host its first digital art exhibition – The Mona Lisa: An Immersive Exhibition – in Marseille in collaboration with the Louvre.
- The exhibition is housed in the beautiful stock exchange building, a stone’s throw from the old port. It is set in a big white cube sitting in the central courtyard, which is perfect for a travelling exhibition.
- After my e-ticket is scanned I’m told the experience will last 45 minutes to an hour. I’m not sure if this was to reassure me that it wouldn’t be too long or to let me know that I’d be getting my money’s worth.
- A ticket costs €14.50, the same as most exhibitions in Paris, but more expensive than the MUCEM ticket (€11), although this massive state-of-the-art museum hosts several large-scale exhibitions of high quality, illustrating the widening gap between ‘premium’ art experiences and traditional state-owned museum exhibitions, built on a philosophy of accessibility and inclusion.
- Grand Palais likely launched its Grand Palais Immersif venture in order to tap into this younger new audience, which is unapologetically seeking premium, playful cultural experiences. If you still need convincing, the main sponsor of the exhibition is video-based social media app TikTok, and, spoiler alert, the last thing people do there is create a ‘story’ of the Mona Lisa with filters and emojis.
- Groups of visitors move from one shell to the other, with the option to stand or sit while admiring giant projections on the four walls of the cube accompanied by a superbly poetic soundtrack by RONE.
What’s good about the experience?
- An ambitious new format, the exhibition offers a convincing alternative to the wave of 3D mapping art experiences produced by Culturespaces, Grande Experiences and (too) many others now.
- The visit starts with the perfect immersive portal: a beautiful zoomed in image of the Mona Lisa projected on a large screen with high quality surround sound. The message is clear – we are diving deep into da Vinci’s masterpiece.
- A map of the exhibition displayed at the entrance shows a clever layout with a succession of shells in a big box. Each shell houses either a video projection or a series of large touch-screens, and an explanation panel. The back of each shell serves also as a seat, which is clever.
- I liked that all of the short anecdotal videos have a timer on the bottom right, so you know at which point of the video you’re at.
- I loved the poetic soundtrack by RONE – who also composed the music for Jacques Audiard’s movie Paris, 13th District, which was very organic.
What could be improved?
- The content on the interactive displays is more for kids, but is fun to explore as a family too.
- Leaving the building and on my way to MUCEM, I felt optimistic about the future of digital art exhibitions. There was only one thing missing: the real painting!
What elements do you like so much you’d use them in your own work?
- The overall format of the experience works really well. It’s a powerful evolution of the 3D mapping model of the Lumières and Alive series into something still 100% digital, but much more meaningful and totally replicable.
- It’s easy to imagine using the same hardware and plugging in new content for a similar experience about another masterpiece, or monument, or city – the opportunities are endless.
You can book tickets for The Mona Lisa: An Immersive Exhibition here.
Read more WXO Experience Reviews here – and if you would like us to review your experience, get in touch.