Earlier today, I visited the Frameless immersive art experience, a brand-new show, which just opened near Marble Arch. The experience consists of 4 large show rooms and covers 40 digitized masterpieces ranging from early Renaissance to the first half of the 20th Century.
FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE IS LONDON’S FIRST PERMANENT VENUE OF ITS KIND
Frameless is London’s first permanent immersive art experience. Aiming to emulate the success of Borderless in Tokyo and L’Atelier des Lumières in Paris, the management have plans to open venues in other cities worldwide.
FIVECURRENTS BROUGHT TO LIFE THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
The company was brought to life by FiveCurrents, who have a long track record in creating live experiences. Among others, they were the production company behind the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies. As the creative force behind Frameless, they have curated and led an ensemble of renowned experts. Artscapes UK selected and curated the artworks and created a narrative around them.
40 MASTERPIECES BY 28 ARTISTS, 4 GALLERIES, 1 TICKET
I paid £27 (incl. £2 booking fee) for my ticket, which is the cheapest type of ticket available for adults. This type of so-called standard ticket currently costs up to £34 for popular time slots. Child tickets start from £17. Kids under the age of 5 go free, but you still have to get a ticket at a price of £0. For all standard tickets you have to arrive on time for whatever time slot you booked.
So-called Flexi-Tickets allow you to rock up at any time during open hours on the date that you selected at time of purchase. They start from £42 for adults and £27 for kids. The premium packages start from £57 for adults and include a glass of champagne and a brochure.
All tickets give you access to all four show rooms, so you will not miss out on any of the action.
ARRIVING EARLY FOR THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
Knowing that I’d forfeit my ticket if I’d run late, I arrived 15 minutes early. There was already a small queue. When the doors opened, we were greeted very friendly by some senior-looking professional folk. I was too far behind in the queue to hear them introducing themselves. So I can only presume they were part of the team that created Frameless.
GREETINGS AND PICTURES
The other people in the queue started having their pictures taken with the people that had greeted us. I took full advantage of that and rushed straight to the escalator. On the opening day of this major exhibition I ended up being the first person entering the galleries. A great start.
‘BEYOND REALITY’ – THE FIRST ROOM OF THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
The first room is called ‘BEYOND REALITY’ and takes visitors on a journey through the surreal, dreamlike, and otherworldly. Very cleverly, it doesn’t limit itself to the actual Surrealist movement. Instead, it kicks things off with Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ (1490-1500). Ever since secondary school, this painter has deeply fascinated me.
THE LATE 1400s WERE A BORING PLACE FOR ART
In the late 1400s, Renaissance had only just introduced the idea of realistic, more life-like depictions of the world around us. And it had done so only in select parts of Europe. Most of the existing artwork people were exposed to, was still medieval art. It largely consisted of ultra-boring and badly executed depictions of religious events.
HIERONYMUS BOSCH AT THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
Then Bosch came up with absolute shockers, that made Renaissance’s new ideas look somewhat dull in comparison. He was not taking any prisoners. Totally rock’n’roll. Creating something entirely different, mind-blowing, exciting, and disturbing. Salvador Dalí, who was born more than 450 years later, was significantly influenced by Bosch. This is why some art scholars refer to Bosch and Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who was born roughly ten years after Bosch’s death, as Proto-Surrealists.
ARCIMBOLDO AND KLIMT
Some will argue that showing two of Bosch’s paintings and four of Arcimboldo’s, is perhaps a bit excessive, but I was happy with the choice. Next, the show’s projectors throw moving elements of Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Tree of Life’ (1905-1909) onto the walls. Ellie, who has not seen the show yet, but who is a huge fan of this artist, would have been rather pleased. Klimt’s works often almost look like collages and could be considered uniquely suitable for an immersive experience like this. Visually very easy on the eye.
EDVARD MUNCH’S ‘THE SCREAM’ AT THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ (1893) makes sure that we don’t get too comfortable in our skin. It almost feels like we can look down the throat of the screamer, who emerges from an infernal sea of red and orange colours.
FROM LOWINSKY’S ‘DAWN OF VENUS’ TO ERNST’S ‘FIRESIDE ANGEL’
To our relief, Thomas Lowinsky’s ‘The Dawn of Venus’ (1922) appears on the walls and soothes our souls like a bit of fluffy Japanese anime. Next, Henri Rousseau’s ‘The Dream’ (1910) provides an excellent transition over towards two of Dalí’s most famous works: ‘The Persistence of Memory’ (1931) and ‘As you like it’ (1948). Finally, Max Ernst’s ‘The Fireside Angel’ (1937) gives viewers another glimpse of horror. We are back at scary chimaeras. What better way to ring in the first painting of the series: Bosch’s ‘Garden’.
ROOM #2: ‘COLOUR IN MOTION’
The next room is called ‘COLOUR IN MOTION.’ Visitors are encouraged to interact with colour as they experience every splash of paint and every brushstroke within each of the selected masterpieces. From the explanatory note next to the entrance, we learn that “colour has always been central to art. But during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, artists began to apply colour in a revolutionary way that arguably changed art forever. Three art movements caused this monumental shift: Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism (better known as Pointillism), and Post-Impressionism.”
FROM SEURAT VIA MONET TO VAN GOGH
The artworks include Georges Seurat’s ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’ (1884), Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Self Portrait’ (1887), Claude Monet’s ‘The Waterlily Pond: Green Harmony’ (1899), Robert Delaunay’s ‘Jean Metzinger’ (1906), Paul Signac’s ‘Mont Saint-Michel, Setting Sun’ (1897), Berthe Morisot’s ‘The Garden at Bougival’ (1884), and, as seems to be obligatory for any immersive art experience these days: van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night over the Rhone’ (1888).
KICKING YOUR FEET AT THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
While the selection of artworks makes perfect sense to me, I found the execution of the immersive experience, the show-element, slightly repetitive. It seemed to lack the energy of the first gallery. That said, this was pretty much all forgotten, when I and the other people in the room realised that the projected, leaf-like colour patches on the floor reacted to everyone’s feets’ movements. Especially the kids were going completely mental, running circles across the room at high speed.
One four- or five-year old boy got so dizzy he mistook me for his father. I had to gently nudge the little feller towards daddy, who was standing a good twenty feet away from us.
ROOM #3: ‘THE WORLD AROUND US’
Next up was Room No. 3: ‘THE WORLD AROUND US.’ We walk (or sit or stand) through landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes that completely envelop us. The artworks include Paul Cézanne’s ‘Avenue at Chantilly’ (1888), Peter Paul Rubens’ ‘The Rainbow Landscape’ (c.1636), J.M.W. Turner’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up’ (1838), Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog’ (1817), and Rachel Ruysch’s ‘Tree Trunk surrounded by Flowers, Butterflies and Animals’ (1685).
This was followed by Canaletto’s ‘Piazza San Marco’ (c.1728) and ‘The Piazza San Marco, Venice’ (c. 1728), Claude Monet’s ‘London, Parliament, Reflections on the Thames’ (1905), Rembrandt’s ‘Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee’ (1633), and Joseph Wright of Derby’s ‘Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples’ (c. 1776-1780).
GIANT INSECTS AT THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE
When I entered during Ruysch’s ‘Tree Trunk’, the gigantic beetles and other creepy-crawlies put me off a little bit at first. However, when I realised that the next artwork was indeed two paintings, I was intrigued. The good people of Frameless had taken one of Canaletto’s works showing the one side of St Mark’s Square, and another, showing the opposite side. Then they had merged the two into one immersive installation. Cool idea.
A TRUE HIGHLIGHT: REMBRANDT’S ‘GALILEE’
Rembrandt’s ‘Galilee’ has been put into motion extremely well. You feel like you are right in the middle of the Lake and the waves are crashing down on you. The boat with Jesus on board has a spot of bright blue sky over it and shines bright. However, everything around it is dark and frightening. Very impressive atmosphere.
THE FINAL ROOM (#4) OF THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE: ‘THE ART OF ABSTRACTION’
The final room of the experience is ‘THE ART OF ABSTRACTION.’ Here the artworks include ‘Yellow, Red, Blue’ by Wassily Kandinsky (1925) and ‘Composition with large red plane, yellow, black, grey and blue’ by Piet Mondrian (1921), with additional artworks from Hilma af Klint, Robert Delaunay, Kazimir Malevich, and Paul Klee.
While I am a huge fan of abstract art, this was by far the least impressive room to me. The press releases and several articles and blog posts written about the exhibition so far, seem to give particular weight and express special admiration for this room.
NOT QUITE AS FABULOUS AS ROOMS #1 TO #3
Maybe coming from the much bigger other three rooms which had showcased what’s possible with today’s technology, this tiny room with cheap-looking dividing walls scattered across it, was just not for me.
The way in which each work of art had been digitally broken into its constituent pieces which were then made to rotate, move, grow bigger or smaller, was actually nicely done. More sophisticatedly than in the other three rooms.
Hard to deny, that the different semi-transparent dividing walls in all types of angles (to each other; they were all standing upright) made for visually mesmerising displays. It simply wasn’t for me, that’s all.
THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE’S MUSIC AND SOUNDSCAPES
Each gallery has a bespoke soundtrack and soundscape with much of it triggered by the visitors themselves as they move around. On average, I found that the music worked well.
Overall, I think Frameless have created a state-of-the-art, very appealing, well curated, innovative immersive art experience.
THE BEST IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE OUT THERE?
Was it the best one I’ve ever seen? No. The best immersive art experience I’ve seen, was without any doubt “Le Bal de Paris de Blanca Li” at The Barbican (now finished). An absolutely mind-boggling VR experience, where you, a dozen other visitors, and 3 or 4 actors dance around in an actual physical space. You interact, while being completely immersed in this virtual world for about 40 minutes.
THE V&A’s ‘CURIOUSER & CURIOUSER’ FOR COMPARISON
Last year’s ‘Curiouser & Curiouser’ Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the V&A was extremely impressive and combined so many different approaches. You were walking through Alice-related artwork, through re-imagined, purpose-created fantasy worlds, some parts were more like a museum, others like a fairground, there were video screens, plenty of objects you could touch. Most importantly, there was a relatively short, 4-minute VR experience. You would jump down a rabbit hole where you had to grab hedgehogs. And the Queen of Hearts would try to murder you.
COMPARING THE FRAMELESS IMMERSIVE ART EXPERIENCE WITH THE TWO VAN GOGH EXPERIENCES
Maybe it would be fairer to compare Frameless with the two Van Gogh immersive experiences that were making a stop in London last year.
Perhaps neither ‘Van Gogh Alive’ in Kensington Gardens (finished) nor ‘Van Gogh – The Immersive Experience’ near Aldgate (booked out) had quite the same standard of technical excellence with regard to projection equipment as Frameless. ‘Van Gogh Alive’s digitisation was following more repetitive patterns. However, ‘Van Gogh – The Immersive Experience’ outdid Frameless in terms of mesmerizing and visually exciting ways of giving elements of the paintings their own life.
BEING VAN GOGH
Moreover, ‘The Immersive Experience’ had a crazy cool, 10-minute VR section. You would ‘wake up’ in van Gogh’s humble abode in Southern France, open the door and go for a stroll. The technology would highlight motifs, van Gogh had painted, whenever you happened to pass by them and look into their direction.
So is Frameless the best thing since the invention of sliced bread? Certainly not. That said, it is certainly worth a visit and it’s great fun for people of any age, including little kids and people who might not have had a lot of exposure to fine art before. 4 out of 5 in my book.
Looking for more fun, artsy things to do in and around The Big Smoke? Why not eyeball my posts about Frieze Sculpture 2022, Sculpture In The City 2022, Henry Moore Studios and Gardens, or my review of last year’s Frieze London.