You’ll be booking your tickets to France in no time

If you’ve always dreamt of walking the beautiful palace grounds of Chateau de Versailles in France, your time is now. A new exhibition at ION Orchard showcases the exquisite beauty of the royal residence, in a mix of immersive graphics and stunning technicolour. And it’s free.

A collaboration between the Palace, Essec Business School, Lumina Live! and ION, the landmark travelling exhibition Virtually Versailles is the first of its kind, making its global debut in Singapore at the ION Art Gallery. It’s an exhibition of many firsts—in digitising entirely the grandeur of the Palace and its works, presenting a show without any actual physical artworks; celebrating the France-Singapore Year of Innovation before 2018 comes to an end. A short drive away from the centre of Paris, the Chateau de Versailles receives over 7 million visitors annually. The Palace today exists as a UNESCO World Heritage site and public museum of sorts, housing key works and art from its centuries-old heritage; but as part of the show, you’ll be privy to a peek at royal life inside during the 17th Century.

The exhibition, which runs from Nov 30-Jan 6, 2019, is spread across ION Art on Level 4 and the top-floor viewing deck ION Sky on Level 56. The accompanying animation on your elevator ride up to the top was shot with a drone specifically for Virtually Versailles, taking visitors on a bird’s eye view over the expansive palace grounds. Once you’ve arrived, you can watch a breathtaking panoramic video of the Chateau; or try interacting with 17th Century Frenchmen in the virtual reality experience “Versailles VR—The Palace is Yours”. Developed with The Lab at Google Arts & Culture in Paris, the immersive experience allows you to wander into iconic rooms inside the Palace, get up close and personal with hundreds of paintings and artefacts, and even interact with members of the French Court during The Yew Ball of February 1745.


Virtually Versailles' Gardens of Versailles

Downstairs, the experience extends into real life, with immersive setups that come close to doing the actual Palace justice. At the entrance, a reconstructed voice message from King Louis XIV (the architecture-savvy monarch who converted the Palace from its humble beginnings as a hunting lodge into the marvel it is today) welcomes you in, while his favourite scent wafts gently through as you walk along.

There’s a mini recreation of the Versailles gardens, where you can hop on a bike and cycle through virtually (far more enjoyable than 50 Million Merits, we guarantee). Make full use of the experience—cycling on the actual palace grounds in France is strictly prohibited. Still, the undisputed highlight of Virtually Versailles is a single room at the end, constructed out of LED walls and ceiling, that create a fully immersive, intimate 360-degree virtual view of five Palace rooms. Experience the Royal Opera House, Hall of Mirrors, The Gallery of Battles, The Mercury Room and The Venus Room in their full virtual glory. There’s no quite explaining the overwhelming grandeur of the experience; you’ll have to see it to feel it.


Royal Opera House

Aside, there’s enough to see at the exhibition to make a full day of it. Of the Palace’s staggering collection of over 60,000 paintings, sculptures and works of art, a modest selection have been digitised in ultra-high resolution (Gigapixel) on interactive screens for you to browse through. Quite frankly, Virtually Versailles might even be a better way to experience the beauty of the French region—where you won’t have to fight throngs of sweaty tourists to get a good, comprehensive view of the Palace in all its glory. Although money down you’ll be itching to book a flight out the instant you exit the exhibition.


Virtually Versailles runs from Nov 30-Jan 6, 2019 at ION Art Gallery, Level 4, ION Orchard, from 10am-10pm. Admission is free and more information available here.