top of page

Immersive Klimt Revolution

A visit to the new Lighthouse Immersive Exhibit


MAR 21, 2023 | ISSUE 4

Immersive Klimt Revolution
Gustav Klimt
Immersive Klimt Revolution

Immersive Klimt Revolution (IKR) is the latest production from Lighthouse Immersive, the producers that brought audiences Immersive Van Gogh, the 600,000 cubic feet projection that sold over 2.5 million tickets in North America. The exhibit promises a vibrant, electrifying celebration of the life and legacy of Gustav Klimt.

Klimt, the Austrian Symbolist painter, has been most connected to the artistic movement Art Nouveau—a gothic style, moving the European art world towards unconventional, organic linear shapes, and psychedelic experimental effects. As black curtains opened and I entered the exhibition, I realized that IKR does now what Art Nouveau did in the 1900s: changing, transcending and transforming traditional ideas of what art

should be, by using this new technology–focused art medium that IKR is, and the public display of eroticism. IKR is anything but predictable, it’s full of contradictions, both whimsical and challenging.

The artworks of Egon Schiele are celebrated alongside Klimt in this production. In 1907, the pair worked closely, as Klimt was Schiele’s mentor. They have been referred to in history as “the masters of sex and death,” a profound and controversial reputation I found was accurately exuberated in this collaboration. IKR sees Klimt and Schiele’s work re-imagined, floating through an immersive experience filled with desperation, sensuality, and vibrant, jewel-coloured tones. In this exhibit, I found Schiele and Klimt a chilling and mesmerizing pair, taking after each other stylistically to depict their fascination with female bodies. These women are portrayed as the subject of lust, but also lonely, placid, and dreamlike in a sequence of expressionless faces—as mermaids, as children, and as lovers. As the show opens with an animated inferno blazing into dark wax, a female nude amongst nature is revealed in a serene ambiance, furnished with lions and other creatures amongst the foliage. The rest of the show evolves in an unpredictable manner, emotive and transgressive.

IKR felt to me like a spontaneous step forward for Lighthouse Immersive, whose inaugural production was palatable for a wide range of audiences of various ages and expertise. Upon entering the exhibit, I noted that IKR does not seem to be targeted for everyone given the mature subject matter, but one could even say it does not have any pretence or obligation to be. IKR appears to outlaw limitations or expectations, to stun, and shock. The exhibition experience is a high-drama passage of time from the eyes of these two complicated art legends, walking you through their shared history and artistic inspiration. Visitors take a tour through the streets of Imperial Vienna, to Greek mythology, Egyptian scenes, and to Klimt’s Japanese influence. IKR is a melting pot of time periods, a juxtaposition of dreamy, ethereal scenes with monstrous geometric shapes.

Immersive Klimt has had time to prepare safety measures, being that it takes place in the same location as Immersive Van Gogh which, at one point, was the only art exhibit open in Toronto at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As One Yonge Street and the exhibition space was previously a printing press for the Toronto Star, the large dark space allows for a blank canvas, perfect for visitors to forget where they are and get lost in the art. Mirrors were built on pillars to reflect images from all angles for a fully immersed experience, and a platform in the centre of the space gives a higher vantage point to view the show. I noted that all of the safety features thought out for Immersive Van Gogh are still in place, such as the social distancing circles on the floor and the necessity of wearing a mask—that safety was a top priority made for a more comfortable experience.

As with Immersive Van Gogh, visitors will see their favourite artworks from Klimt’s ‘golden age’. The Kiss, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer,  and Death and Life all shimmer and dazzle beside nude self portraits and Austrian landscapes by Schiele. In IKR, these images are adapted, overlaid with depth and movement, like never seen before. For example, arguably Klimt’s most famous gold leaf, The Kiss, is paired in the same image frame as a couple who are nude, and dance together abstractly. They are covered in gold dust, complimenting Klimt’s most iconic work, adding a modern cinematic element.