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The Louvre prepares for first VR experience

Credit: Emissive and HTC Vive Arts

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the Louvre is preparing a seminal retrospective of his artistic career, opening to the public in October. As part of this landmark exhibition, the Louvre will present the museum’s first virtual reality experience.

Often described as the best-known and most visited artwork in the world, the Mona Lisa has been housed in the Louvre, Paris since 1797. 

With this year marking the 500th anniversary of artist Leonardo da Vinci’s death, the museum wanted to come up with a new way for art lovers to experience this timeless masterpiece, and HTC Vive was invited to share some ideas.

A spokesperson for HTC Vive explains: “We asked the curators of the exhibition to imagine being freed from the limitations of physical reality to create their dream experience for visitors. The idea to showcase the Mona Lisa painting began organically through our discussions with the curatorial team in October last year as they were preparing for this landmark show and from that everything started coming together.”

One Step Beyond

The result of these discussions is a new VR experience, Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, which will provide an opportunity for visitors to interact with the painting in virtual space. Viewers will have the rare chance to be immersed into the world’s most iconic painting, stepping behind the glass to access the intriguing portrait up close in an entirely new, transformative way. 

With Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass, state of the art 3D modeling tools and engines enable visitors to discover details hidden to the naked eye in one of the most popular works of art using HTC Vive hardware. Incorporating new scientific research, which has revealed the techniques the artist used to create the masterpiece as well as further information on the identity of the sitter, participants will be presented with an intimate look at a painting which has been the subject of fascination and intrigue for generations.  

HTC Vive adds: Expectations are very high for this first VR experience at the Louvre and we want to ensure both art connoisseurs and the general public will enjoy this unique face to face experience with the Mona Lisa. The amount of research that our team did on the painting was phenomenal and the stories around the world’s most famous painting are countless so creating an experience of a few minutes was a complex challenge.”

Produced in close collaboration with the Louvre’s own curatorial team for this unprecedented retrospective of the artist, this creative virtual reality experience will allow audiences around the world to gain new insight into the Mona Lisa. The VR experience will also be available as a home version on HTC’s digital subscription service, VIVEPORT, alongside other online VR platforms, allowing audiences around the world to access Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass. The home version will be launched simultaneously will be available with extended content, which makes it accessible to wider audiences around the world. 

Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass will reflect Leonardo da Vinci’s own revolutionary practice as a true Renaissance polymath, working in science, engineering, architecture and art. The virtual reality experience will pay tribute to an artist who constantly embraced innovation throughout the course of his wide-ranging influential career and will celebrate da Vinci’s enduring legacy as one of the greatest painters in history. 

Dominique de Font-Réaulx, director of the interpretation and cultural programming department at the Louvre, said: “The public will be able to discover an immersive experience with an extraordinary masterpiece. This collaboration will allow visitors to meet and learn more about the Mona Lisa herself, beyond the myths and legends that have surrounded her for over 500 years.”

“VR has this incredible capacity of making people experience things you simply can’t do in real life, and it is crucial for us to make people feel connected to the experience on an emotional level. Bringing to life the vision of the exhibition team using VR is a wonderful creative opportunity, as it presents a new medium for curators to tell stories,” adds HTC.

“It has proven to be incredibly popular in entertainment venues and cultural institutions. Through collaborations such as these, we can provide amazing, unique experiences in premium VR with HTC VIVE. There is a huge opportunity for wider audiences to be exposed to VR experiences and truly incredible VR content through working with some of the most important museums in the world.”