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Light up your museum

January 11, 2011

"Light Around" at Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia by De Ponte Studio DPSA+D

We think of going into museums, visiting them when they are open. But what happens when the museum closes for the night? Nothing (unless it’s “Month at the Museum“).

When I was a kid, our family traveled to France and I loved the “Son et Lumière” evening events held at many castles and cathedrals. Recently I’ve noticed a resurgence of this tradition of projecting interesting lighting on facades, applied both in traditional marketing and to the arts and culture sector.

What can a “light show” reveal about the building behind it?

Recent Museum lighting events in Italy

Museo della Scienza (Milan), Dec. 4 2010 to Jan 10 2011
The Milanese company De Ponte Studio DPSA+D by Silvio De Ponte, on the occasion of the LED festival, lit up the facade of the Science and Technology museum in Rome with dynamic colours and lights. Two static light colours, used in alternation, paint the facade in a rather solid manner: “il Rosso, che psicologicamente è legato alla conquista del futuro e il Blu che si riferisce al pensiero e al relax”. Yellow is used to highlight minor areas, while white dynamic light above the main door “explodes” to give a sense of innovation.

While attractive, there is nothing of a spectacle here, nor does it give a really good sense of what’s inside the museum. On the positive side, it does “highlight” the building – perhaps a passerby who didn’t know it was there would now be more likely to enter.

Ara Pacis (Rome), 208-10 (various dates).
I’m sorry to have missed seeing the latest edition of this show in which original colours of the Ara Pacis are projected on the real structure, though maybe they’ll decide to do it again soon. The show, based on research by Stefano Borghini e Raffaele Carlani, is meant to remind us of the fact that some of these Imperial antiques were highly coloured in a way that looks rather gaudy to our current eye (read more in this article in italian). In this example, harmless projection of light is used for reconstruction – and it’s so much better than virtual reality or seeing it on a computer screen!

Galleria Borghese Rome, Son e Lumieres

Galleria Borghese (Rome), Summer 2005.
Rome-based Son et Lumiere designed an excellent display for the Galleria Borghese that brings the museum’s collection outside, at night, and blows it up to mammoth proportions. In the photo on the left (borrowed from their website), two sculptures by Bernini have the opportunity to dialogue with one another. In a second part of the evening’s projection, set to classical music, the original frieze decorations on the facade were reconstructed.

A marketing example

In a strange crossover from the cultural industry to that of fashion, Ralph Lauren celebrated 10 years of “digital innovation” with “the ultimate fusion of art, fashion & technology in a visual feast”. The sound and light show projected on the facade of the new London flagship store on Bond street is touted as the first 4D experience. What do you think?

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 30, 2013 10:27 pm

    I think this is such a wonderful idea! The museum that I currently work at does have an event called Art After Dark, where we have a big art party revolving around the exhibition that we have up. It is always a lot of fun and it is a fun way to bring in a new crowd and to teach people about art in a fun way!

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