Het Kunstuur (the Art Hour) is a new ground-breaking ‘interactive’ gallery concept.
Developed by art collectors and entrepreneurs Hans & Joost Bourlon, Het Kunstuur was presented in the charismatic former Holy Ghost Chapel in the historical heart of Mechelen, Belgium. Thirty-two priceless Belgian paintings from the 19th century are displayed in three gallery spaces, where their stories are told by a series of well-known Belgian personalities.
Creative lighting design and media specialist Painting with Light (PWL) was asked to manage and co-ordinate and design the technical systems and control for lighting, video, audio and humidity control for this intricate and unique project.
Visitors wear headsets and listen to an audio track as they move around the spaces, prompted to stop / move on cue to designated areas by the audio track, where they watch and listen as the AV effects play out. The walk-through lasts exactly an hour, which inspired the name.
This lively and innovative presentation concept is intended to appeal to both established art lovers and also attract new audiences and young people who are interested in learning, but who might not visit a conventional gallery set up.
In the first two rooms, each painting is introduced, and its story told by the designated personality, who appears as a life-size projected video on the gallery wall right beside the painting! Rooms 1 and 2 are divided by an electric curtain which tracks aside at the appropriate moment.
The third room, situated in the old chapel itself, is a darker, more intimate club-like space, where visitors hear but don’t see the narrator while experiencing an immersive light show produced to compliment the art. This altered setting allows a complete change of perspective.
Classic space with a modern touch
PWL was asked onboard by concept designer Wouter Verhulst of King Concept who created the original idea and storyline with the Bourlon Brothers and designed the gallery layout.
Wouter specifically wanted to work with a company known for technical and creative ingenuity, lateral thinking and with the resources, skills and flair to make an art gallery come alive in a stimulating theatrical way. PWL’s team drew from its vast knowledge of creating entertaining ‘visual experiences’ across multiple disciplines – theatre, live shows, attractions and themed environments, visitor centres, etc. All of these influenced the delivery of a dynamic technical solution for Het Kunstuur in Mechelen.
The first phase of the design process saw the whole museum virtually created in WYSIWYG and presented as a VR experience to the project’s initiators. The PWL team, under the creative direction of Luc Peumans, was led on site by Céline Cuypers who project managed delivery of the full technical design including the projection system, creative lighting, audio track and control, plus specification, procurement and commissioning of all equipment and its implementation.
The lighting layout was produced in collaboration with PWL’s lighting experts Peter Van Den Bosch and Ashwin Coelho. All equipment was installed by Sam van Maele and his team from EVM Electrical Solutions.
The first and second rooms contain 18 paintings, and each has a personal story told by its associated personality.
The Bourlons themselves produced the video content which is stored on Brightsign players and triggered remotely during the show.
The projections are fed by four Panasonic Space Player 2000 Lumen devices attached to the cable management ducting. These were picked for their small size, light weight and discreet appearance, plus the intensity – a combination of illumination and image projection – as well as their networking capabilities. The content was keystone corrected and adjusted using a disguise d3 media server and Adobe After Effect tools by PWL video specialists Katleen Selleslagh and Sina Sohn.
The paintings are mounted on black walls and lit from behind with RGB LED strips which change colours to generate an ambient light adjusted to each work’s specific colour palette. The profile lights in this area are 19 x Showtec Performer Profile Minis, a very small 30W COB LED luminaire, installed with 25 – 50° zoom lenses and the shutter module option for fine-tuned focusing on the paintings.
PWL Lighting expert Martijn Smolders was responsible for focusing the lights and ensuring that the framing and highlighting were adjusted precisely to visitor’s viewing angles and that reflections were minimised.
The decor in the first two rooms includes custom black textile wall cladding provided by Showtex. To improve the overall atmosphere and give viewers a sense of orientation, linear lighting was implemented at the bottom of these walls.
Electric curtains between the rooms guide visitors to the right location at the right time, their movements controlled via Brainboxes IP relays triggered by the master Christie Pandora’s Box Widget designer control system … which also fires and syncs all the audio, video and lighting cues. This was selected as the most flexible and adaptable option for integration of all these control elements.
Entering the third room, visitors pass into the original chapel building itself, with its distinctive high-vaulted ceiling and eye-catching wooden roof frame and beams. The decor in this room is built by Roux Meubelprojecten, and the large paintings are positioned on easels around the room on a wooden platform with integral linear lighting that heightens the theatrical ambience.
The paintings in the chapel are highlighted with 14 x Chauvet Ovation lighting fixtures installed with beam-clamps in the roof. This variable white ellipsoidal style light has a 6-colour LED engine and was ideal for the application as the colour can be adjusted to the colour temperature of the paintings.
One extra Ovation is used to simulate a big stained-glass window utilizing the combination of a printed sticker and a gobo to highlight the appropriate parts.
The roof itself is feature-lit with GVA Lighting STR9s LEDs, with more of these used for grazing up the walls.
The mood shifts from a cool, contemporary art space to a darker, more colourful, funky vibe creating a totally different context for imbibing the art. It’s a nice playful surprise element that pops out at the end of an already interesting journey.
PWL’s lighting scheme for the reception area lighting utilises AEG TLR05 LED pendant lights and Iguzzini wall washers. The lighting intensity is adjusted to the time of the day following an external light sensor. Visitors arrive in the reception zone, are issued with their headsets and audio players provided by guideID and wait for their allotted timeslot to start the 1-hour tour.
At the start of the tour, the audio is synced via a timecode signal that chooses the right start to the audio track. During the gallery’s opening hours, tours commence every 20 minutes. A countdown in the entrance hall indicates when the next ‘show’ is going to start and when the time arrives, the entrance door opens automatically, and the experience can start.
Monitoring from a central control room
Lighting was programmed by Céline together with intern Dorian Stevens using grandMA onPC software in combination with a grandMA 2-port node. The main show control was programmed by Céline using Widget Designer which sends triggers to the lighting cues on the grandMA, the Brightsign media players and the Ethernet-to-GPIO modules. These modules read the control buttons of the reception desk and accordingly switch on / off the humidifier / dehumidifier outlets.
Shows start at fixed times throughout the day, triggered by computer’s clock. The right timecode tracks are sent to the syncing modules of the audio system to ensure that video, audio and lighting are always working together, ensuring that a stable temperature and humidity levels are maintained for the paintings. This application has been developed with BMK Solutions and integrated into the main Widget Designer application.
PWL’s CEO and creative director Luc Peumans commented, “Delivering this project to the clients hands is another milestone in the 20 year history of Painting with Light."
“In that time we have developed our know-how about how to combine creative and technical services for the ‘entertainment experience’, and for this specific project, our client had some extra challenges - the concept of visitors spending maximum one hour in the museum and focussing their attention on one painting at a time together with timing, lighting, audio and guest flow were all key."
“Thanks to the talents of our multidisciplinary team and our spirit of pushing the boundaries Painting with Light could deliver total show control for this unique experience. Our project manager Céline challenged herself to provide Het Kunstuur with full AV show control including automatic light settings, video projections and visitor guidance plus the correct humidity factors to protect the paintings."