David Hockney goes immersive with his Bigger and Closer exhibition

Painter is producing an immersive digital spectacle based on some of his most celebrated work

David Hockney poses in front of his painting 'The Arrival Of Spring' in 2017
Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller & Further Away) opens in early 2023 and will use virtual and augmented reality
(Image credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

David Hockney has become the latest artist to dip his toe into the world of immersive art, said Nadia Khomami in The Guardian.

Hockney, “one of the world’s most acclaimed and popular living artists”, has collaborated with the team at Lightroom, a new four-storey venue in London’s King’s Cross, to produce an immersive digital spectacle based on some of the painter’s most celebrated work.

Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller & Further Away), which opens early in 2023, will use virtual and augmented reality to explore many of Hockney’s pictures, from those painted in 1960s California to recent iPad drawings of his Normandy garden. Visitors will hear a specially recorded voice-over by Hockney, in which he explains how paint can capture the “vastness” of the Grand Canyon, and sheds light on his experiments with perspective.

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“Immersive art is absolutely everywhere, especially in London,” said Eddy Frankel in Time Out. “We’ve got immersive van Gogh and Klimt experiences, with classic art projected across the walls of Docklands warehouses.” There’s Kusama’s Infinity Mirror rooms at Tate Modern. “We’re drowning in immersion.”

There are now at least five digital exhibitions showcasing van Gogh’s work, stationed in cities across the world, said Anna Wiener in The New Yorker. Even traditional institutions, under pressure to reach larger audiences and generate cash, are getting in on the act: Paris’s Grand Palais has collaborated with the Louvre on an immersive exhibition about the Mona Lisa.

The organisers of such events argue that they “democratise” great art, acting as a gateway for audiences unwilling or unable to access the museums in which it is usually displayed. Hockney, however, is “dismissive” of this trend, said David Sanderson in The Times.

“They are just using van Gogh and Monet,” he said recently. “And they are dead. They can’t add anything to it. Well, I’m still alive so I can make things work better.” When his paintings are projected on the walls of Lightroom’s vast space, “the audience will feel in this”, he says. “They will feel in the forest. They will feel on the cliff. I think it is something very new.”

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