Set to the delicate traces of “Suite Pastorale: Idylle” by composer Emmanuel Chabrier, sunny yellow irises gracefully bloom underfoot and spread across the surrounding walls before fading from view. A cobblestone street appears, leading to such a lifelike projection of Vincent van Gogh’s 1886 painting “View of Paris” that guests feel perched atop a Seine river overlook. Rather, they’re inside LUME, an immersive exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on the Newfields campus.
Among a tidal wave of Van Gogh-centric exhibits across the U.S., LUME stands out for its engaging presence and relaxed atmosphere.
“Newfields wanted to do an exhibit like this, but we needed the right partner,” says Jonathan Berger, deputy director for marketing and external affairs. That partner came in the form of Grande Experiences, an Australia-based company that has staged multisensory exhibits throughout Europe. LUME is its largest production to date.
The museum committed to building a permanent spot that could host long-term exhibits. The result is a 30,000-square-foot area brimming with multiple galleries, top-of-the-line audio and visual capabilities, and nearly limitless potential. Since opening July 27, LUME has proved to be an inspired introduction to immersive art.
Tour guides refer to LUME as an “experience” rather than an “exhibit,” because the entire walk-through has been tuned for engagement. 150 projectors frame four featurettes of Van Gogh’s artwork and life history across the walls and floor of the multisensory galleries, playing simultaneously so guests can walk back and forth through the experience without missing a moment. An adjacent “360 room” provides relief from overstimulation by offering a tone-down version of the current featurette. Nearby, Café Terrace 1888 was custom built for LUME, designed after Van Gogh’s 1888 painting of the same name, and offers sit-down drinks for guests over 21 years old.
A family favorite is the Gogh Play! gallery, in which guests interact with Van Gogh’s works of art. One station lets visitors “Van Gogh yourself” by having their photo taken and overlayed with a Van Gogh painting filter. At another station, guests can take a deep dive into three of Van Gogh’s paintings — “Starry Night,” “Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant),” and “Sheaves of Wheat” — by using their hands to zoom in on the works projected on the wall.
This particular station transitions to LUME’s Impressionist gallery. As guests finish studying the fine details of a Van Gogh painting, they turn a corner and come face-to-face with the original. A longtime part of IMA’s permanent collection, “Landscape at Saint-Rémy (Enclosed Field with Peasant),” alongside Cezanne’s “House in Provence,” and Gauguin’s “Landscape Near Arles,” are drawing a captive crowd of admirers.
“Guests are responding to the Van Gogh painting in our collection when they’re coming from Gogh Play. That painting has been there since 1944, and guests are lining up to look at it now. That’s never happened before,” Berger says.
In September, IMA exchanged “Landscape at Saint-Rémy” for Van Gogh’s “Sheaves of Wheat” from the Dallas Museum of Art; the latter painting will remain on display at LUME through February 2022 and then return to Dallas.
Rounding out the LUME experience is a production set straight out of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles.” Custom fabricated by Indianapolis-based Sapphire Theater Company, the set is a 3D recreation of Van Gogh’s 1888 painting, right down to the lacquered jacket hanging on the wall and twin-size wooden bed frame. Guests can venture into the set to analyze these mind-bending art techniques up close.
The chance to perch oneself on a true theatrical set is perhaps the most grounding part of the LUME experience. Even LUME’s classical music-laden soundtrack is loaded to a Spotify playlist for guests to enjoy whenever they wish.
“It’s special to have this world-class exhibit space,” Berger says. “We consume art differently than we used to. By looking at Van Gogh’s art this way — if people do a deeper dive into art — we’re doing good on our promise as Indiana’s No. 1 cultural institution.”
When You Go
Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
4000 Michigan Road