The Dalí Museum and Grande: Increasing Audience Engagement with Immersive Experiences

We interviewed our collaborators on Dalí Alive, The Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, FL, about the creative process of working with Grande and the phenomenal audience reaction to hosting an immersive experience in their gallery space.

Q: What was the process of working with Grande Experiences to create Dalí Alive? How did the two creative teams work together?

A: The Dalí Museum’s curators, educators, and the executive team worked hand in hand with Grande Experiences to craft a detailed narrative for Dalí Alive – one that enlightens visitors about the spiritual, emotional, and physical spaces Salvador Dalí occupied during his lifetime.

We focused on Dalí’s personal and artistic challenges and triumphs in a chronological format to engage and inspire audiences. Grande Experiences then designed an immersive experience that brings the renowned artist’s unique story to life, incorporating imagery and animation of the art, historical photographs, music, and video – particularly those that lent themselves to captivating motion design. When the overall narrative was finalized, the movement of each segment was developed and complemented by a powerful musical score. All elements were finessed to create the final marvelous multi-sensory experience.

Dali Alive immersive experience

Q: How do immersive experiences fit into audience trends as an alternative to traditional art exhibitions?

A: The Dalí believes that technology can enhance an art experience. This is readily seen by interacting with other Dalí Museum digital experiences – both at the Museum and virtually. For example, our Masterworks in Augmented Reality experience is available for visitors to The Dalí as they view artworks in the galleries – using the app, visitors uncover the meaning behind Dalí’s largest and most complex works. Another highly engaging experience, Dalí Lives, allows Museum visitors to hear directly from a reimagined (via Artificial Intelligence) Salvador Dalí, who shares his inspirations using historical quotes blended with current conversational phrases. The Museum’s free app is also available to anyone across the globe – providing access to art is an important endeavor for The Dalí and the entire museum industry.

In the case of Dalí Alive, visitors can see Dalí’s iconic works in an entirely new way. The fully immersive experience explores Dalí’s continual reinvention – his place, his person, his family, and his very human transience – to overcome obstacles, something not always easily understood through a painting alone.

We hope that the Dalí Alive experience will leave visitors inspired by Dalí’s story and more engaged with his artwork, along with an open mind to experience his art, and all art, in a new way.

Dali Alive immersive experience

Q What is TDM’s experience of hosting an immersive experience?

A: For over a decade, The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg has used digital and interactive technologies to heighten visitor engagement. As part of our quest for artistic connection through technology, in 2019, we investigated projection mapping.

We chose to work with Grande Experiences, as they are a world-leading arts and culture company with proven expertise in immersive experiences. Audience research and similarities in artistic vision between Dalí and Van Gogh led us to host Van Gogh Alive.

We opened Van Gogh Alive during a tumultuous time – November 2020. This was soon after re-opening the Museum following a three-month closure at the onset of the pandemic. Visitors could view both our permanent Dalí collection and our ongoing interactive experiences, plus the immersive Van Gogh experience.

The response was phenomenal. We sold out tickets for every day of the initially planned five-month run of Van Gogh Alive, and extended it for two more months due to demand. Some of the many uplifting visitor comments include: “A fascinating new way to look at art,” “Life altering,” “Filled my heart with joy,” and “I could feel the artwork.”  This reaction aligns with our mission to educate and inspire through art.

Working with Grande Experiences during a time when travel was limited was challenging. Still, they adapted to the unprecedented situation – we were well trained, remotely from Australia, and felt in good hands from set-up through the experience’s entire run.

Dali Alive immersive experience

Q: What was the practical experience of hosting an experience in your venue? Were there any space considerations?

A: We hosted the experience in our Hough Family Wing, which is under 5,000 square feet, which was smaller than other typical Grande Experience installations. We collaborated and adjusted accordingly. And, as we do with all of our exhibitions, we closely monitored visitor behavior and feedback, then made adjustments throughout the show to create the optimal visitor experience.

Typically, Van Gogh Alive and Grande’s other immersive experiences are accompanied by interactive elements. Our limited space prohibited us from displaying those so we got creative with auxiliary programming to augment engagement and learning.

Also, because we are a single-artist museum, we always strive to create connections between Dalí and any artist(s) we are exhibiting. They did not cross paths, but as noted earlier, they had similar visionary artist approaches, and both have left impactful legacies on our cultural landscape. We provided didactic information to demonstrate those connections.

Q: How did audiences respond?

A: In addition to the positive visitor feedback shared earlier, through our visitor research study, we found the experience significantly impacted how visitors view and learn about art.

  • The vast majority of visitors (94%) who visited during Van Gogh Alive were motivated to visit the Museum to see the special immersive digital exhibit, the strongest we had ever seen.
  • Almost all (96%) visitors reported learning something new about Vincent Van Gogh after viewing Van Gogh Alive, highlighting the educational value a digital experience can offer.
  • And approximately 9 out of 10 (89%) visitors reported that the Van Gogh Alive exhibit changed their perception of how to think about art.

This positive response reinforces that the way visitors want to consume art is evolving, which pushes us to continually explore new, engaging experiences for current and next-generation museum-goers.

Dalí Alive is now available for touring in the US. Send a message to Grande’s Head of Museums & Galleries, Soraia Salvador for more information.