Impressionist art becomes an immersive experience at Prague’s Forum Karlín

Laser projections and music put you in the scene in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 16.09.2020 08:39 (updated on 16.09.2020)

You can see works by impressionist masters in Prague in a new, modern way using digital laser projections and 3D surround sound. The show Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir… (Bylo Nebylo… Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir) opens at Forum Karlín on September 18.

The space usually used for concerts now will host an immersive exhibition of impressionist masterpieces shown on more than 2,000 square meters of projection screens in a surround sound environment. People can watch it more than once to catch everything.

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Monet in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…/ photo via Raymond Johnston

Thirty laser projectors mounted on the ceiling create high-resolution images on screens around the edge of the space, as well as two polyhedrons in the center of the room and even the floor.

There are two podiums that people can sit on to take in the scene, if they get tired of walking around.

Aside from Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir, mentioned in the show title, there are works by Degas, known for his depictions of dancers, Pointillist pioneer Paul Signac, and Czech artist Bohumil Kubišta. Music includes Chopin and Erik Satie.

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once upon renoir
Renoir in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…/ photo via Raymond Johnston

People can see individual brush strokes in the works if they look closely. Some of the images are also slightly animated — water ripples under Monet’s lilies, people gesture in Renoir’s parties, boats sail in Signac’s dotted seascapes. As one image dissolves into another, people can see animated brush strokes fill in the new picture.

The highlight of the show is Van Gogh. One of his self portraits can be seen in extreme detail on the central polyhedrons while some of his landscapes fill the walls and even the floor.

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Degas in in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…/ photo via Raymond Johnston

It doesn’t matter when you enter, as the show runs in a loop and has no real designated start or finish.

The producer of the show is concert promoter Serge Grimaux. He said the show took over five months to prepare, and is the first large event in Forum Karlín since March. Currently, large indoor concerts can’t be held so an exhibition like this one puts the space back into use and provides some jobs in the entertainment industry.

“Describing Once Upon a time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir… is very hard to do with words. It is a such a breathtaking experience — it is like trying to describe what it is take off in a plane to someone who never flew,” Grimaux said.

Paul Signac in in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…/ photo via Raymond Johnston

“The same type of spectacular entertainment has been presented, and is currently presented, with immense success in many capital cities around the world. I am extremely proud to introduce this new concept to the Czech Republic. In these days of uncertainties one thing is for sure, we need to go out. We need to share great moments again with people we love and care for. Having turned Forum Karlín into such an oracle, I am convinced the audience will love the spectacular journey we have prepared for them,” he added.

Impressionism can offer people an escape from their current cares. “In the face of the threat facing our world, we have decided to recall the beauty of which our world is made. Impressionism is an artistic direction that originated in the second half of the 19th century and was a reaction to studio painting. The Impressionists tried to capture the immediate atmosphere of the moment, the unique moment, the moment of mental mood,” he said.

once upon kubista
Bohumil Kubišta in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…/ photo via Raymond Johnston

“The first Impressionists were out of the ordinary at the time, as they did not respect many of the then valid rules of fine art. They completely refused to look for the ideal beauty, but on the contrary wanted to capture the natural beauty in their surroundings and at the time. It was also important that they did not paint in the studio, but outside in nature, in the garden, which allowed them to observe nature and try to capture the play of shadows and sunlight,” he said, adding that this is the beginning of series of events he wants to present in Forum Karlín.

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For safety reasons, only up to 100 people will be allowed into the exhibition space every 20 minutes. Organizers assume some people may stay to see it twice, or up to one hour and 20 minutes, so staggering the entry will keep to amount of people in the room under the legal limits for indoor entertainment.

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Van Gogh in Once Upon A Time, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir…/ photo via Raymond Johnston

Hand sanitizer is available at several places in the venue, and people’s temperatures are scanned as they enter.

The projectors won’t interfere with large concerts and events, when those restart. They can be left in place, and the screens and seating can be removed in a matter of hours. Putting them back is also a relatively simple task.

Advance tickets sale are on sale on the websites for the venue and via the Ticketmaster network.