Being Inside the Klimt Show

This is not a traditional gallery show; this is not your usual museum walk. You do not pick and choose what you see, skipping the later years, or lingering in front of a favorite. No, this one comes and goes, with and without you. Unlike the last Klimt show you saw, there are no Klimt paintings on the walls. There is Klimt, but no painted canvases and you won’t really notice the walls, either. To top it off, the lights are off; the show happens in the dark. Happens? 

Yes, the Klimt show happens. It happens around you, it comes to you, and it literally happens on you. And it also happens on the floor, on the ceiling, and on the walls.

I could call it a “sound and light” show but that would be an insult to the creators. Son et lumière sounds prettier in French, but it remains “sound and light.”  Sound and light is stale and this show is fresh and very much today.

So if it’s neither traditional, nor expected, then what is this show? An experience? Pairing computer technology with Klimt images, the group of Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto, Massimiliano Siccardi, with the musical collaboration of Luca Longobardi create a Klimt dream sequence universe. Projected on the atelier’s surfaces Klimt’s famous characters like Judith Klimt and the lovers of The Kiss slowly move around the room. Imagine The Pear Tree gliding left, sometimes right, sometimes up and sometimes down and around the space. The tree grows larger and larger until it distorts from a tree to an ever magnifying texture and then just a shade of color and light that overtakes the walls and ceiling and floor and eventually washes over you, too. Then it fades away to telescope into another detail from another Klimt piece. As the magnification happens, behind you on other walls, the rolling gold swirls of The Tree of Life multiply and become an ocean of gold swirls.

To enrich further the experience, Bach partitas fill the space as the images move around the atelier. One could almost call the experience “Klimt movies,” except there is not one film, there is not one version of this story. There are as many versions as there are perspectives. We are not seated in rows at the Cinemax watching a 3D Klimt adventure. We wander freely through the giant space of the “atelier,” watching the images transform from one to another, and then with a turn of the head, one can see other images rising and falling across and around the room. Rolling around, larger and larger and smaller and smaller until they disappear into a void that mysteriously sprouts another image that becomes a canonical Klimt piece, like that ever sensual imperious gaze of Judith Klimt, larger and larger than life, and then like that, she slips away, exit stage left.

But what does it feel like? Various metaphors come to mind. Imagine a Klimt museum cum nightclub filled with subtle strobe lights and disco balls and a DJ playing Wagner and dreamy piano sonatas. Or imagine strolling through the gardens of Versailles with Klimt images streaming everywhere - on the fountain waters, on the paths, on the hedges and upon high into the sky. Or imagine a dream, where a gentle breeze blows the patches of green grass of Klimt’s prairies off the canvas and they float away toward the luscious lips of the woman in The Kiss. Doorways lead literally into open spaces, and the angels gently lift away from their sky blue heavens.


Perhaps this is what it was like inside Klimt’s mind? The music, the hundred shades of green grasses and trees, the rich patterns of the Viennese Secession, the splashes of red and whorls of wavy lines.   Sensational? Perhaps. Sensual? You bet. Klimt painted softness, luscious lips and bare breasts and framed them (trapped them?) in hardness, golden boughs and swaths of luxurious gold gilding. He captured those intimate moments, keeping viewers on the outside, always wanting in, wanting more.

This is why this show wins. Where Klimt kept us out, this show welcomes us in. The show recreates Klimt’s universe into living halogram worlds. The show gives us the privileged access to places where Klimt denied us. Same, but different, and variations on a theme, the show is everything Klimt, and everything Klimt all at once.


I enjoyed this show so much that Lifelong Learning Abroad has made arrangements for everyone to visit the show and a special conference about its creation.


Gustav Klimt

Atelier des Lumières

until 31 December

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