Rogues’ gallery

Art and the bureaucratisation of novelty

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  • Published 20230207
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-80-1
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook
3D Model Aphrodite With Golden VR Glasses On Blue Background. Virtual Art Concept. 3D Illustration.

OBSERVE ANY CULTURAL institution for long enough and it will eventually mismanage a crisis of legitimacy so large that you can witness it incline first towards decadence and then towards disorder. With this in mind, I found myself at The Lume Melbourne’s digital Vincent van Gogh exhibition early in 2022. Marketed as the Southern Hemisphere’s first permanent digital art gallery and housed inside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, The Lume is brought to you by Grande Experiences – its name may evoke some sinister shopfront for a sex-tourism operator, but it produces immersive installations of artistic cash cows like van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci and Dalí. A quip once made by Andy Warhol feels especially prescient here: ‘Someday all department stores will become museums and all museums will become department stores.’ My visit coincided with the annual Melbourne Gift Fair, which meant the entrance hall to the exhibition was full of suppliers spending their day peddling knick-knacks wholesale.

The exhibition itself comprised 3,000 square metres of multi-sensorial discovery. One installation recreates The Bedroom (1888)such that you can step inside and photograph yourself sitting on a simulation of the painting of van Gogh’s bed; another room contains mirrors and plastic yellow sunflowers in a tenuous homage to Sunflowers (1887); and yet another features a Lexus (the exhibition’s presenting partner) with The Starry Night (1889) printed onto its exterior. In the corner of the main gallery, there is a van Gogh-inspired café where you can order food and drinks, but the main event is a ninety-minute lightshow, replete with spicy and woody aromas, in which van Gogh’s paintings, sketches and quotes are projected onto the walls and floor amid a swerving medley of classical music. The experience does not so much approximate the feeling of inhabiting a van Gogh painting, as Grande Experienceswould have us believe, as it does the feeling of living inside a van Gogh-inspired screensaver. 

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