Bruce Peterson Founder, Grande Experiences & 'The LUME Melbourne' - a new permanent, multi-sensory immersive art experience opening within the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in September 2021
Not many pioneers of the art scene have come from P.E. teaching – but this is one of the many hats Melbourne entrepreneur Bruce Peterson has worn in his incredibly varied career.
Peterson, 55, runs Grande Experiences, which produces much-celebrated – and much-loved – large- scale, immersive digital art and culture, science and nature exhibitions and experiences that have attracted more than 17 million visitors in 145+ cities across the globe, presented in 32 languages.
His innovative experiences combine cutting-edge HD digital imaging, multi-channel surround sound and even aromas to offer an unparalleled, walk through cinematic experience of the art and lives of such greats as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. He does this by allowing visitors to, quite literally, step into their works, to experience them, to be immersed in them from “a completely different angle than you would in a traditional art gallery or museum.”
And it is this attitude – of enjoying art from “the perspective of a normal bloke like me,” - that has his pioneering exhibitions and experiences regularly headline some of the world’s most prestigious established and emerging museums and galleries, including the National Geographic Museum in Washington, Madrid’s Arte Canal, Russia’s Artillery Museum and the ArtScience Museum in Singapore.
Peterson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in education, says the very fact he does not have formal qualifications in art curation is a key to Grande’s success. He approaches every exhibition as an average person, not a traditional art curator or academic – and his aim is to educate and share the pleasure of art not just with those who already appreciate great art and culture, but also with those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be exposed to it, as well as those who might be intimidated by the whole culture of the arts world.
“For me, it’s about taking art and the extraordinary stories behind the art and the artists to the masses in an environment that is inclusive for all, and it frightens no one,” says Peterson, whose own passion for art – and life’s many experiences - has seen him and his family travel all over the world - from the Arctic to the Amazon.
Though his mother and grandmother are artists (as is one of his daughters), Peterson’s passion for sharing art came late in life, after he’d enjoyed several successful careers as a secondary school teacher, sales representative at a multinational pharmaceuticals company and even launching thriving businesses in printing, luxury travel and team performance/leadership training.
In 2005, he received a fateful call from a friend representing a group of Italian artists interested in bringing an exhibition of the works of Leonardo da Vinci to his hometown of Melbourne. The display was a great success attracting 120,000 visitors but he felt the exhibition could be a whole lot better and richer. The vision to create the world’s most comprehensive exhibitions on Leonardo da Vinci, all housed under the one roof was born.
Despite having no experience in the highly complex (and, often, haughty) world of exhibition curation, Peterson and his wife packed up their young family and headed to Italy where they lived for 12 months, creating what would become, and remains today after several updates 16 years later, the largest and most detailed exhibition of the Italian master’s works anywhere in the world. In 2013 he even bought the private museum Leonardo da Vinci Museo in Rome from the Italian Artisans and it operates very successfully in Piazza del Popolo within the crypt of Chiesa Santa Maria.
“So many people told me that I couldn’t possibly do it and that was like showing a red rag to a bull,’’ says Peterson, a born disruptor and confessed rule-breaker. “I quickly learned that not being from the arts fraternity was actually a benefit and gave me the freedom to create exhibitions through the eyes of a visitor; not a curator or for academic peers. It has led I believe to a much more engaging, entertaining and enjoyable experience for many people.
“Art galleries and museums can be quite intimidating places, but it’s 2021, so it’s no longer about standing in front of a painting and staring at it quietly from afar. Using technology cleverly means that it’s now possible to experience art in a more inclusive way that offers a much deeper, more immersive, multi-sensory experience that draws you into the art.”
Peterson has gone on to expand Grande Experiences’ repertoire of exhibitions and experiences to encompass science and nature, and also literature with interactive exhibitions such as Planet Shark: Predator or Prey, Monet & Friends and Alice – A Wonderland Adventure. New productions in the pipeline include The World of Street Art (which will include 15 original and complete sections of the Berlin Wall that he owns ... don’t ask) and a unique Australian Indigenous Experience.
Peterson is now spending a lot of time and energy embarking on the creation of new cultural attractions around the world; specifically permanent Digital Art Galleries commencing with THE LUME Melbourne due to open in mid 2021. Also under establishment is The LUME Indianapolis in partnership with the Indianapolis Museum of Art and THE LUME London. These huge multisensory galleries also incorporate taste into the sensory experience, with fully themed food and beverages available from the café/bar inside the giant projection environment.
“Life is about experiences and the more you experience, the more you understand life - and the better yours will be!”, he adds.