A Brief History of the London Lumiere Festival

The Christmas holiday season in the United States is filled with light, with homeowners and businesses alike decking out their buildings with a combination of red and green colors. Some go to great lengths (and are willing to pay very high electric bills) to make their visual mark on the holiday and in their city or town.  One such length is the Lumiere Festival.

Lumiere festival began in 2009 in Durham, which is a city in the north of England.   The first edition of Lumiere London was held in 2016 and was supported by the Mayor of London. The second edition of Lumiere London, which was held two weeks ago was commissioned by the Mayor of London.   In case you are wondering just what the creative limits are at the festival, there really don’t seem to be any. Take for example re-creating London in the 17th century using a 460 foot model of city, building it on the famous Thames River. The 2016 exhibit, London’s Burning, saw this model literally set on fire to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.

OK, I don’t get why a city would want to commemorate their city being burnt to a crisp for a group of people who weren’t even around in 1666, but hey, its art and I’m an American. That 4 day exhibition pulled in 1.3 million visits over four nights, and the Burning was not the only exhibit visitors came to see. This year’s exhibition, held between January 18 — 21, was more inhibited, using the exterior of the city’s buildings as its canvas.

Creation and design of the exhibits is not limited to U.K. residents. Artists from all over the world created the 50 projects displayed in 2018, with the physical area set aside for the displays large enough to require a map to locate all the exhibits. It definitely was an interesting way to get to know London at night.

The first exhibition was commissioned by the Mayor of London was held in Durham in 2009. You can visit their website, which by the way is awesome, to view the exhibits from past years here: http://www.lumiere-festival.com/archive-home/?archive-year=2009. According to the company’s website, their goal is to transform people’s lives by the way they (literally) see the world.

If you take the time to scroll through the various exhibits over the years you will see that their goal has not been left unsatisfied. Every creation has its own unique style and statement, ranging from a visit to the past to a visual commentary on the present. What can be easily overlooked is that many of the exhibits present unique challenges to the organizers and the city. Thus far, Artichoke has met the challenges and provided Londoners’ and visitors a memorable, once in a lifetime experience.

If you plan on attending the 2019 event, be sure to bring a camera that has a huge megapixel range because you will want to get all of the detail in each of the exhibits. Well, that and the fact that you can never be sure what they are going to burn down.


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