November 2, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

Digital art gallery THE LUME opened at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) last night, offering visitors an immersive, sensory experience of Vincent van Gogh 11 metres high and 360 degrees around.

Clearly MCEC CEO Peter King was proud of the world-first event, which has a contracted five-year tenure at the convention centre, and which migh be sufficient to wash away the Jeff’s Shed moniker.  But he did say the successful drive-in theatre experience may again play out at one end of MCEC while THE LUME occupies the higher ground at the other.

THE LUME is a partnership between the centre and Melbourne’s Bruce Peterson, owner and founder of Grande Experiences. And well-named the experience is, as it envelopes all your senses – even a van Gogh scent was being pumped through the air conditioning, but compulsory mask wearing made it hard to detect.

Peterson explained that the idea came from his children whom he was dragging around galleries in France and Italy, but they were tugging at him saying it was boring, there was no movement, no music.

“This was my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” he said, adding that it had taken nearly 10 years to pull it all together.

Not only did he need to obtain permission of each of the owners of the artworks, some of whom preferred to maintain their anonymity, but he also had to source high resolution photographic images of the art to be able to blow it up sufficiently to create the immersive experience – you can even see the brush strokes in van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers.

At the media preview yesterday kids were anything but bored; they danced to the music, rolled on the floor, and could even touch the artwork while 140 HD video projectors and a nine-channel audio system rolled music through the van Gogh art collection. Unlike many galleries, children frolicked in the mock-up of van Gogh’s bedroom in the foyer prior to entering the main exhibition.

THE LUME has been long-promised, delayed by COVID, but proved to be well worth the wait and potentially ushers in a new era for MCEC, with the exhibition space able to be hired by associations or corporates for private dinners for up to 1,000 in banquet. Within the space is a French-themed café and the mezzanine floor provides an expansive overview of the art and can be hired exclusively without affecting public attendance.

Air and accommodation packages for interstate visitors are being developed with the City of Melbourne and Visit Victoria and THE LUME is to open 364 days a year. Masks are compulsory as is double vaccination, which is checked on arrival.

Grande Experiences has about nine different themed exhibitions from Indigenous art to Leonardo da Vinci and street art.  But all expect THE LUME’s display of more than 200 of van Gogh’s best-known works will enjoy a long run at the venue.