First held in 1667, the annual Salon in Paris was the official exhibiting organ of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Academy). Until the emergence of commercial dealer galleries in the mid-nineteenth century, the Salon provided many artists with the only opportunity to show their work and hopefully attract sales and patronage. By the mid-nineteenth century thousands of paintings were presented floor to ceiling, as closely together as possible. Visitors sometimes brought spyglasses to these exhibitions, in order to see the works that were ‘skied’ or hung close to the exhibition venue’s ceilings. In a similar fashion, the Royal Academy in London held the first of its annual contemporary art shows in 1769. Growing exponentially each year, by the mid to late nineteenth century its shows were bursting at the seams. Receiving multitudes of visitors each year, from all levels of society, both the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy exhibitions acted, before the invention of cinema, as primary vehicles for disseminating contemporary visual culture to its visitors.
The National Gallery of Victoria’s Salon Gallery, with more than 140 paintings and a dozen sculptures on display, transports visitors back in time to an era when jostling crowds thronged the great Salon and Royal Academy exhibitions with wonder, excitement and hunger for information. Salon et lumière seeks to recreate the exhilaration experienced by nineteenth-century audiences in a twenty-first-century context, utilising modern illumination and projection techniques and an immersive soundscape to capture for today’s audiences the immersive thrill felt by their forebears more than a century and a half ago. By selectively illuminating an assortment of stories drawn from the many narratives on display in the Salon Gallery – animalia, love and loss, music, punishment, clouds, horses, and the colour pink – Salon et lumière embodies the clamorous power of these great exhibitions.
This project is proudly supported by Major Partner, Telstra
Creative Director: Benjamin Ducroz, NGV Multimedia Manager
Lead Moving Image Designer: Taylor Curry
Lead Sound Design: Cornel Wilczek
Thematic Development: Dr Ted Gott, NGV Senior Curator, International Art