The selection of artists may not seem an obvious one at first; with Paris’s cultural importance, one might reasonably have expected the place to be given over to a French painter. But as Couzigou explains, the choice was carefully considered. “First of all, we have an obligation to attract visitors,” he says. “Klimt is a very well-known artist, and The Kiss is an iconic work of art. He abandoned classicism for something more personal, more introspective.” Immersed in a more or less chronological succession of the artist’s career highlights, you get a clear sense of quite how radically Klimt reinvented his own art.
Though hardly obscure, Hundertwasser is not a household name outside of his native Austria. Yet as Couzigou explains, showcasing his work helps to both shed light on an artist who should by rights be better known, and to continue the story of Viennese art in the 20th century. “[Hundertwasser] was Klimt’s heir,” Couzigou says. “He reclaimed Klimt’s heritage, and what’s more, he was a very graphic artist.” As such, the two displays (which also feature a brief selection of images by
) can be seen as an elegiac journey through the artistic history of a city that was once Europe’s intellectual capital.
You could, of course, dismiss this all as yet another Instagram-friendly gimmick, or even argue that bringing great works of art “to life” should not be necessary: Who, after all, would have the temerity to try and improve upon a bona fide masterpiece? But this, as Couzigou is at pains to add, is not the intention. “This is an entirely different type of experience from what you would get in a museum,” he says. “It provokes a strong emotional response.” As such, the Atélier has great potential as an educational space. “Our priority is to open culture to everyone, and digital art allows this,” he explains.