We know that design and concept are essential to the success of any exhibition. It’s one of the key reasons we partnered with Li Ting, who owns the Intellectual Property of several French museums in China— including the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, the Orsay Museum, and the Rodin Museum— to create Wonderland Art Museum, an exhibition that transformed the KOHLER Experience Center in Shanghai into a three-dimensional art world.
The display featured 16 fine prints of artworks spanning defining periods in European art, from the Renaissance to Impressionism, in three parts designed to engage visitors and encourage an interest in classical art.
“In China, the love for classical art increases day by day, especially in large urban centers,” Li says, but he also notes that forms of appreciation can vary between different groups, and sometimes audiences require an extra touch to the experience. “A vivid storytelling format results in a unique experience different from a conventional museum,” he says.
Paintings of the Louvre
One of the first paintings visitors encountered was Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady With an Ermine. A masterpiece of chiaroscuro composition, this portrait of Cecilia Gallerani is an example of how art became more realistic and humanistic in the Renaissance. The picture is even more fascinating because of the animal she holds, a white ermine, supposedly symbolizing her lover Ludovico Sforza, Da Vinci's patron in Milan.
The painting was displayed as part of the Paintings of the Louvre section on the second floor. “Most classic art is figurative, bearing narratives that the audience can intuitively relate to. These inner stories and expressions are like visual textbooks for viewers,” Li says.
Interestingly, the pieces belonging to the Scene Reappearance section were accompanied by elements of mise-en-scène that played up their intrinsic qualities. For instance, The Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet hung against a vertical garden that re-created the scenery of the artist's home in Giverny.
The famous Japanese bridge was also re-created outside the painting. Just in front, as if borrowing the hues from Monet's brushstrokes, a KOHLER freestanding bath in sapphire blue represented the pond, with the artist’s nymphéa floating on the water.
The re-creation of Monet's garden was "an elegant marketing method and an innovative attempt to integrate products into the atmosphere of works of art," Li says, explaining that this leads the audience to pay closer attention to the nuances of the product.
A few steps further, the Isleworth Mona Lisa, an earlier and unfinished version of Da Vinci’s iconic portrait, hung above a bathroom counter with gold faucets and a basin. In this painting, the subject appears younger but bearing the same remarkable expression and a captivating smile. Displayed as if it were a mirror, the portrait served as a playful reminder that everyone can be just as enigmatic as La Gioconda.
Wonderland Art Museum became more immersive the further along the KOHLER Experience Center visitors wandered, reaching its peak in the Live Performance section
The centerpiece on the second floor was the Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, which depicts a lively group of friends having lunch on a balcony by the river. There's an inherent movement to the scene, giving the impression that it's alive — and for this exhibition, it was.
We collaborated with the Shanghai Media Group to recreate the atmosphere of the painting in a performance. Actors dressed in character reenacted the scene, inviting the public to dance among a set of our luxury kitchen cabinets. This theatrical format requires a deep understanding of the artwork and professional talent to develop and perform the choreography. The result was indeed a scene from a Renoir painting, oozing the joie de vivre typical of his work.
"Professional performances are refreshing to the audience," Li says. "People like to interact with the actors and feel immersed in the work, taking part in the art instead of just looking at it passively."
The exhibition's grand finale was another masterwork by Da Vinci, The Last Supper. The original, a mural painted at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, has an utterly expressive character showing a wealth of emotions, from confusion and surprise to rage and pain.
Such an explosion of sentiments was distilled with mastery in another performance, this time enhanced by impressive lighting and sound effects, a spectacle that left the audience with a lasting impression of the complexity and depth of classical art.
Wonderland Art Museum also showed works by Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Rodin, among others. Following the success of [Re-born], the exhibition is part of our aim to create consumer experiences that revolve around art.
To Li, the results were nothing short of extraordinary. "This was one of the few exhibitions in China to show classical art in such an innovative way. It can set a benchmark in the industry," he says.