A volcano is erupting in the distance, smoke turns the sky an angry shade of puce and screams echo from afar as lava floods the surrounding plains.
Suddenly, the rumbling reaches its crescendo with an almighty crash and I let out a little shriek as red light bleeds down the walls. Then it all fades to blackness.
Although it feels like I’m caught at the foothills of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, I’m actually viewing an 18th-century painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, brought to life at Frameless, London’s first permanent immersive art installation.
Just a few metres from the frenzy of Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street, Frameless has transformed a Marble Arch basement into a 30,000sq ft symposium of colour, sound and light – allowing the works of the masters to truly break free from their wooden and gilt surrounds.
Beyond the mirrored ‘Tunnel Of Creativity’ (the first of many photo-ops), a trendy café bar and gift shop serve as the wardrobe in this Narnia-esque experience, leading the way to the four rooms that house this hi-tech production.
The World Around Us pulls you inside the landscape itself – the room morphs from Venice’s Piazza San Marco through the eyes of Canaletto into Cezanne’s verdant vision of the Avenue at Chantilly in Paris – while The Art Of Abstraction sees the works of Mondrian and Kandinsky dance across gauze screens to smooth jazz.
The most interactive of the four is Colour In Motion. Here adults stomp and play in puddles of brush strokes, which swirl around the floor like psychedelic autumn leaves before settling into the impressionist dots of Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond.
The final room is their largest and showiest – a giant video show where surrealist works by the likes of Salvador Dali, Edvard Munch and Henri Rousseau are translated into 33ft-tall animated wonderlands. If the stillness and stuffiness of art galleries bothers you, you’ll find none of that here – punters drift around the space, posing for Instagram shots or sprawling across the mirrored floor.
At 7pm on a rainy Wednesday it’s clearly date night – couples giggle and smooch while seashells and fish from the Birth Of Venus swoop across their faces – but there are also a few children in attendance, and one little boy gazes spellbound as Klimt’s Tree Of Life unfurls from a seedling into a hypnotising montage of golden vines.
A snobbier patron might sniff at the concept – there are no actual artworks here and the production team have done most of the emotional heavy-lifting – but there is no doubt this is a dazzling introduction to the artistic world.
Buy tickets from £25, at the Frameless website
More immersive art
Van Gogh Expo, Spitalfields
Vincent van Gogh was a master at capturing his surroundings in an evocative way. Touring the globe since 2017, this interactive exhibit allows you to step even further into his world, from immersive rooms filled with his most famous works to a VR experience that allows you to walk alongside the Dutch genius.
Tickets from £22.90 from the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience website.
The Now Building, Tottenham Court Road
If you’ve travelled through TCR since it’s had its Lizzy Line makeover, then you won’t have missed this behemoth of a digital gallery. Visible from the street on the world’s largest Ultra HD LED screens, its daily programming features everything from nature videos to mindfulness workshops. The best bit? You can wander in for free.
Tap here for more on the Outernet London website.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms
For a chance to truly go through the looking glass, look no further than this in-demand exhibition of the 93-year old’s most iconic artworks. From rooms filled with endless kaleidoscopic colour to the mesmeric Chandelier Of Grief, prepare for a hallucinatory trip like no other.
Tickets from £10, booking until next April 2, on the Tate website.
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