When Massimiliano Siccardi began developing the idea for immersive art experiences beginning with Vincent Van Gogh, he had two other artists in mind to follow the famed painter.
Siccardi felt the best way to captivate the next generation of art enthusiasts was to feature the world of Gustav Klimt and Frida Kahlo.
While some markets have gotten to immerse themselves in the works of all three artists, Scottsdale opened “Immersive Klimt: Revolution” in late March.
“The idea comes from Massimiliano Siccardi,” says Richard Ouzounian, a creative consultant at Lighthouse Immersive. “For him, the trilogy was Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and Frida Kahlo because he felt they were all revolutionary artists in totally different ways.”
The revolution surrounding the works of Klimt was so noteworthy that the show had to be named “Immersive Klimt: Revolution.”
The show begins with patrons walking through a tunnel where interesting facts penned by Ouzounian meet historic photographs of Vienna, Austria, the setting for Klimt’s story.
In 1897, there was a stirring of revolution coming through music, literature, architecture and psychology.
“What I found fascinating about the revolution, or the Vienna Secession as it’s referred to, happened through the artists,” Ouzounian says. “That to me is strange since most revolutions come from political movements, social movements, writers or even theater.
“In this case, Klimt and his colleagues decided the old ways had and they wanted a new way of thinking, feeling and a new way of expressing, which wound up leading a whole movement that changed everything.”
As Arnold Schoenberg was writing the first 12-zone music and Sigmund Freud was doing the first psychoanalysis, Klimt developed a new way of looking at art and architecture.
Klimt’s works were somewhat controversial at the time, and he fought a considerable number of censorship battles throughout his life.
Siccardi also wanted to display the cultural struggle that occurred during Klimt’s career, which is why he decided to feature the works of Klimt’s protege.
“Massimiliano wanted to show part of the cultural struggle that was going on, so he added one other painter, Egon Schiele,” Ouzounian says. “When Klimt and Schiele started out, one was perceived as the angel of light and the other was the angel of darkness. Klimt was perceived as being this wonderful, warm, loving man and Schiele was a very dark, troubled young man who came from a horrible background and painted twisted self-portraits of himself.”
“Klimt kept working with him, and as we get near the end, Schiele is painting more like Klimt and Klimt is painting a bit more like Schiele,” Ouzounian says.
“One of the things I say is ‘If you parse any one of Klimt’s works in detail, you get a crash course in 20th century art. You’ll find Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Pollock, Kandinsky and Rothko.’”
Klimt’s works help people understand the time he lived through. He lived through a cultural revolution, World War I and the influenza epidemic of 1918 prior to his death of a stroke in 1918.
“There’s a recurring cycle of political struggle, pandemic, excess, and it keeps going,” Ouzounian says. “You can see that it’s a mega world where there are images that are possibly unsettling and distorted, but the overall effect is that Klimt believed in beauty and art was something you cling to.”
For Siccardi, the musical score for the show had to aid in telling Klimt’s story.
“Luca Longobardi — who did the score for ‘Immersive Van Gogh’ — uses a lot of Arnold Schoenberg since he was the artist of the time, but he also has a David Bowie recording of ‘Helden’ — a powerful song with the lyric ‘we can all be heroes for just one day,’ which is what Klimt believed,” Ouzounian says.
The show concludes with techno music constructed by Siccardi himself and titled “MMXXI,” or 2021.
The show runs at just around 40 minutes, and Ouzounian says “it’s kind of a liberation.”
“You follow Klimt through most of Klimt’s life like you did with Van Gogh, but at the end, it’s a sense of, ‘Where did this all come from?’” Ouzounian says.
Because of this, he encourages patrons to gain the full experience through revisiting the show, which they are allowed to do during their visit to Lighthouse Immersive Artspace in Scottsdale.
“I encourage people to view the show, go out to the lobby and look at the books and exhibits, then go back in so they’ll see something new,” he says.
Ouzounian also hopes the show sparks an interest in Klimt’s life and the history surrounding it.
“People who have not been weaned on Van Gogh or don’t really know who Klimt was will say, ‘This guy is fascinating. I want to see more, and I want to learn more.’ That’s what we would like to see happen,” he says.
“If there’s anything people should learn, it’s that you shouldn’t pigeonhole an artist,” Ouzounian says.
“Immersive Klimt: Revolution”
WHEN: Various times, open-ended
WHERE: Lighthouse Artspace, 4301 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
COST: Visit website for information