Van Gogh meets Dubai Mall: a look inside the huge immersive digital art space that has opened in the UAE

Infinity des Lumières is the largest centre of its kind in the region

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Digital art space Infinity des Lumières has opened in Dubai Mall © Culturespaces / Eric Spiller Digital art space Infinity des Lumières has opened in Dubai Mall © Culturespaces / Eric Spiller

Digital art space Infinity des Lumières has opened in Dubai Mall © Culturespaces / Eric Spiller Digital art space Infinity des Lumières has opened in Dubai Mall © Culturespaces / Eric Spiller

In 1882, eight years before he committed suicide, Vincent van Gogh confided to his brother, Theo, in a letter: “I want to reach the point where people say of my work, that man feels deeply and that man feels subtly.” Little did Van Gogh know that more than 100 years later, his artistry would move spectators through large, animated screens at venues all over the world—and now in the small Gulf country of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The first main exhibition at Infinity des Lumières is of Van Gogh's beloved paintings of sunflowers, self-portraits and starry nights Photo: Rawaa Talass

In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, Infinity des Lumières opened on 1 July at the Dubai Mall as the largest digital art centre in the Middle East. Occupying 2,700 sq. m, the space is equipped with 130 projectors and 58 speakers. The venue is a multi-national collaboration between Dubai's culture ministry, Culturespaces in France, and the Belgian technology company Barco.

Occupying 2,700 sq. m, the Infinity des Lumières space is equipped with 130 projectors and 58 speakers Photo: Rawaa Talass

Culturespaces has digital art venues in France (in Paris, Bordeaux and Les Baux-de-Provence) and South Korea and is due to open a new space in New York in 2022. Meanwhile, there are several similar companies creating digital experiences, including teamLab and PaceX, and Van Gogh in particular is a popular choice for such shows.

Alongside the immersive installation of Van Gogh’s universally beloved paintings is a show of Japanese art © Culturespaces / Eric Spiller

Alongside Dubai's immersive installation of Van Gogh’s universally beloved paintings of sunflowers, self-portraits and starry nights, is a show of Japanese art where Hokusai’s iconic, claw-like waves wash over at your feet. An all-sensory viewing experience, the moving images are accompanied by an eclectic selection of music, from Vivaldi to Nina Simone.

Infinity des Lumières has pinpointed the perfect selfie spot in its space Photo: Rawaa Talass

The centre is meant to be accessible to everyone, from children running freely into Van Gogh landscapes to people in wheelchair. It is an attempt, according to the organisers, to “democratise art”. However, the 125AED (around £25) ticket price for an adult makes it a pricey experience for some Dubai residents. Selfie takers are obviously turning out in force: there is even a spot, right in front of the ‘Mirror Room’, that reads: “Here, Best Selfie Ever.”

Organisers say the digital format "democratises" art—but the price tag doesn't make it accessible to all of Dubai's locals Photo: Rawaa Talass

With its focus on technology and innovation, Dubai is a befitting home for Infinity des Lumières. More of the city's futuristic vision with be on display in a few months when the long-awaited Dubai Expo 2020 opens, hosting 191 country pavilions.

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