Company behind blockbuster immersive art experiences expands to New York former bank and Dubai shopping mall


Video projections of paintings by Gustav Klimt fill the Bassins de Lumières, a Bordeaux submarine base that opened as a digital exhibition venue in June 2020
© Dominique Chauvet Roldan

The French museums operator Culturespaces is expanding its popular chain of digital art venues to a Dubai shopping mall and a former banking hall in New York in 2021.

The company is a rare private player in the French cultural sector, managing sites on behalf of public institutions including the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris and the Roman amphitheatre in Nimes. In 2012, it began producing immersive sound and light shows of paintings under the trademark Amiex (Art & Music Immersive Experience) within a former limestone quarry in Provence, the Carrières de Lumières. The concept took flight with the 2018 launch of the Atelier des Lumières in a former Paris foundry, where laser video projections of masterpieces by Van Gogh, Klimt and the French Impressionists set to music have attracted more than three million visitors to date.

Having added further digital art centres in a South Korea bunker (Bunker de Lumières) and a Second World War submarine base in Bordeaux (Bassins de Lumières), Culturespaces is now partnering with the events and media giant IMG to bring the concept to New York. It is converting 28,000 sq. ft of the former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in Tribeca, a landmarked Beaux-Arts building leased from the Chetrit group, into a new venue known as Hall des Lumières.


The landmarked Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank building in Tribeca, New York, will house the new Hall des Lumières from 2021-22
Courtesy of Culturespaces and IMG

Construction work on the grand ground-floor space is due to begin “shortly”, a Culturespaces spokeswoman says, with the opening date scheduled for 2021-22. The renovation will be overseen by the architects Woods Bagot, which led the conversion of the building to luxury residences, together with historic preservation specialists Higgins Quasebarth & Partners. The Hall des Lumières digital exhibitions “will be designed to complement the venue’s interiors of marble, columns, bank tellers, stained glass windows and sculptures”, according to a press statement.

Meanwhile, a Dubai space called the Infinity des Lumières will open in early 2021 with an immersive experience animating Van Gogh’s paintings. According to the Culturespaces website, the venture is a franchise with the Spanish group Metra and will be located on two floors of the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest shopping centres.

Unburdened by the traditional exhibition model of borrowing original works of art, Culturespaces says its digital venues are coping well with Covid-19 restrictions. Despite social distancing measures and the collapse in international tourism to France, the €14m Bassins de Lumières in Bordeaux has already welcomed 400,000 visitors since it opened in June, the spokeswoman says.

The move to New York was “an obvious step”, she says, as “the cultural capital of the US”, adding that Culturespaces is planning to expand to other American locations.

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Lessons From Blockbuster – Total Access Takes Another Minor Misstep

Blockbuster provides a perfect real-world example of a company struggling to get it right. Sometimes they get the DVD in the tray and sometimes they don't. (That analogy sounded better in my head!)

One of the neat features of Blockbuster Total Access is that along with being able to exchange mail envelopes for a free DVD in the store is that they also send you a monthly coupon that can be used for either a DVD or a game. Real quick, let's do the math on all of this. I pay just about $ 10 per month for the one DVD at a time plan. Let's say that I only watch movies on the weekend so every week I get my DVD in the mail, watch it, exchange it for a freebie in the store and then wash, rinse and repeat the next weekend and so on. That's two movies I watch per per week, eight per month plus a ninth movie (or game) using the free coupon. I'm paying just over $ 1.10 per movie.

If I were to do the same process with the next level of service, two DVDs at a time, I'd be paying about $ 0.88 per movie. Not a bad stinking deal, and again, which is why I'm in love with Blockbuster Total access. I'm sold on the service, but where Blockbuster goes wrong is in the customer communications department.

Last week I received an email from Blockbuster notifying me that my ecoupon was ready. I was curious about that. I wasn't sure how these ecoupons would be delivered.

The email is great! It's only missing one thing; a link to the actual coupon. The email does everything right except the one thing that they absolutely MUST get right. It provides no link nor any instructions on how to print the coupon. Well, thanks for the notification, but, uh, what now?

I look through the "related links" to see if maybe a link to the coupons was included in that list. No luck there. The best I can do is to "Sign In". So I click on the sing in link and am taken to the login screen. I enter my info and am taken to the standard you're-logged-in home page. I don't see any special notice that tells me my ecoupon is ready to be printed. In fact, there is nothing on this page about my ecoupon whatsoever.

I finally figured out to navigate to "My account" and look for a little button that reads "print ecoupon". Talk about making the customer do all the work! An email such as this should, at the very least, contain instructions on how to get to the coupon. Don't make the customers spend time trying to figure all this out. Even better, though, would have been an actual button in the email to "Print ecoupon." This could have led the customer directly to the coupon page saving everybody a bit of time and frustration!

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