What to know about the new Monet experience in Doraville

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

It’s the first exhibit to be shown at the new permanent Exhibition Hub.

Claude Monet, the prolific French impressionist painter, remains a popular figure whose work draws multiple generations of fans nearly a century after his death.

John Zaller, an Atlanta immersive exhibition expert who has been in the business more than two decades, knew when he was opening the new Exhibition Hub, a permanent space in Doraville for interactive art projects, that Monet would be a crowd-pleasing debut experience. (His brother, John, operates the “Harry Potter Exhibition” downtown.)

“It’s a great way to get away from the madness in the world,” Zaller said. “It’ll be a great place to get away during the holidays with friends and family.”

Since “Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience” opened Oct. 28, it has sold more than 20,000 tickets. Adult ticket prices start at $33.10 and the space is now open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Before Zaller leased the space, it was once a flea market and a soccer arena, then sat empty for a decade. He said the 50,000 square feet and 30-foot-high ceilings provide him plenty of flexibility and can host multiple experiences at once. In fact, a “Star Wars”-themed exhibit will open Nov. 11 alongside Monet.

The exhibition is modeled after the hugely successful Vincent Van Gogh Experience last year at Pullman Yards in Kirkwood, which drew a whopping 425,000 visitors.

For Zaller, this is actually his second version of the Monet experience, which ran in different cities around the world for years. This time around, he said, the content is more fleshed out. “We have expanded on his artist’s workshop. And the immersive room is 100% new. All 4K projection. It’s super crisp. It’s a really beautiful, seamless show.”

The experience features 400 of the more than 3,000 works of art Monet created in his lifetime.

The first room is a traditional museum-style series of informational graphics focused on the artist’s life, including quotes from Monet himself and a discussion of his painting technique, which should take about 15 minutes if you read everything.

“People want to learn and read and see,” Zaller said, as he entered the room during a recent special tour for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before the exhibition opened. “Monet was disowned by his father and married some girl his father didn’t approve of. Family drama is everywhere. He was conscripted to serve in the war in Algeria. His dad didn’t buy him out of it because he wouldn’t pursue a career in business. His aunt got him out. He traveled a lot in his life and we talk about this voyages.”

The second room is a replica of the studio Monet used to paint in his home in Giverny, France, where he lived from 1890 until his death in 1926. “All these works on the walls are arranged as he had them around him in Giverny,” Zaller said, while in the room. “The furniture is sourced from the period.”

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com

The third is a replica of his garden in Giverny, a place that is set up for photo ops. “We have multiple bridges,” he said. “This is a great Zen moment. Monet would follow the light around the lily pads,” the subject of many of his paintings.

Credit: RODNEY HO

Credit: RODNEY HO

The heart of the immersive experience is the 10,000-square-foot fourth room, which breaks down Monet’s life work by locations where he painted. Seats are readily available or you can stroll around. Cityscapes from Paris and London transform into his works. Samplings of Monet’s best works come and go. The show runs 35 minutes, then repeats, choreographed to a custom score using a 62-piece orchestra. (The music plays in all the rooms.)

“Monet had this meditative, soulful nature to his work,” Zaller said. “You can be transported where you become part of the paintings.”

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

And there is a bonus after that: a $5 add-on virtual reality experience where you can put on a special headset enabling you to look around Monet’s workshop and garden as well as many of the places he visited over the years such as the hayfields at Giverny, the Normandy train station and the banks of the Seine in Paris. Snow and rain digitally hit you and at times, you’re even on the water.

Zaller said he employs a dozen tech folks who put together the virtual reality experience in house.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Zaller promises plenty of fun exhibitions in the coming years and is working with local multimedia artists to host live shows that could feature music and use of the parking lot as well. He has signed a lease that exceeds 10 years. The Hub has a staff of 120 people and on any given day, 55 to 60 employees will traipse through the space.

There’s a café, gift shop and extra space for activities and games for children. He hopes to get an alcohol license as well.

“Our experiences offer a lot of soul, a lot of richness but also a wonderful amount of playfulness,” he said. “We want to appeal to anyone from 3 to 103. That’s our company ethos. That’s what we’re banking on. The public will respond to that.”


EVENT PREVIEW

The Claude Monet Experience

10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. $33.10-$35.40. Exhibition Hub Atlanta Arts Center, 5660 Buford Highway NE, Doraville. feverup.com.

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