DUBAI: If Vincent Van Gogh or Edvard Munch could time travel, one wonders what they would think about how art has evolved. Or about how much their masterpieces have fetched over the years, or how their works have now been transformed into digitised designs that can float from floor to ceiling.
For us, here in the present, digital art theater is a modern take on consuming artworks; getting up close and personal with renowned paintings without fear of ruining them. It’s certainly an unconventional way of presenting the world’s greatest works without having to worry about transporting multi-million dollar canvasses from city to city.
One brand leading this type of experience is the Theater of Digital Art (ToDA), which has just opened its first permanent space in the Middle East. Following its regional debut exhibit in Saudi Arabia, ToDA is now in the United Arab Emirates, taking over Dubai’s Souk Madinat Jumeirah’s former theatre.
“The exhibition in Saudi wasn’t as immersive as it is here; here it is available (to view from) different angles. And because it is a theater (space), it gives a different effect,” ToDA’s general manager, Gabriel Afrim tells Arab News. “Those who already visited in Saudi will get a different experience here.”
The company has definitely brought in the big guns for its first long-running show. Running for three months, “From Monet to Kandinsky. Revolutionary Art” is dedicated to “the most important art movements of late 19th and early 20th centuries” through the vision of nine legendary painters: Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Wassily Kandinsky, Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch, Juan Gris, Robert Delaunay, and Paul Klee.
Here’s how it works. Running every hour, entry includes access to the 45-minute “performance” of various artworks by the artists mentioned.
“When you walk into a gallery you can see the masterpiece, but here you can see them ‘animated,’ allowing you to see more details in the painting,” Afrim elaborates. “It’s fully immersive. Visitors can sit and enjoy the music and art on the walls.”
ToDA collaborates with Vision Multimedia Projects, a Russian company that specializes in these types of multimedia experiences. Once the show’s concept is confirmed, says Afrim, the partner company works on everything from acquiring rights to both the art and the music, as well as piecing it all together.
Munch’s “The Scream” is very much the star of the show — as relevant today as it was when it first created in 1893 — representing the universal anxiety of man. It will no doubt resonate with many, considering it accurately depicts how the majority of us feel about 2020 so far.
From a personal perspective, ToDA doesn’t replace the experience of viewing the real art pieces; rather it is a nice accompaniment and makes for something different. It is much more child-friendly as well. The children’s Interactive Room allows young visitors to create their own animal coloring, and see it transformed from paper to animation right before their eyes.
One more offering included in the ticket price (from $20 for adults) is the VR Room that incorporates 3D, virtual-reality and augmented-reality “painting” experiences. The permanent arrival of ToDA in Dubai was planned pre-COVID, so it will be interesting to see how well this room takes. While staff members were taking the necessary sanitary precautions, I was keen to avoid trying on a headset.
Taking current times into account, ToDA is operating at a limited capacity — the original plan was to host up to 500 visitors per hour; now it has been reduced to 120. The smaller number actually makes more sense. During my own visit, it was somewhat frustrating to be surrounded by a few individuals who were more occupied with chatting loudly or “doing it for the ‘Gram” rather than taking in the visuals and learning more about the artists. So if you plan on heading there, Afrim offers some advice:
“The beauty of this place is that you don’t have to sit in a certain way to see it and look in a single direction. Personally, I prefer to sit on the floor.”
ToDA’s plan is to remain in Dubai for just under 10 years, running different shows every few months. So there’s definitely time for visitors to get it as right as the organization itself has.