by Judith Rubin, IPM co-editor
|All photos by Judith Rubin unless otherwise labeled
–Jessie Gillam, Imagine That! Design & Production Inc.
Some 60 items brought to life from notes and drawings by the maestro, from the manuscript collection known as the “Codices of Leonardo da Vinci,” comprise the traveling exhibition, “Da Vinci Machines,” created by Niccolai Teknoart SNC (Firenze) Artisans of Florence Pty Ltd., in association with the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci.
The objects are working models, handcrafted primarily of wood, metal and cloth, in five groups, reflecting this quintessential Renaissance Man’s tinkerings with ideas for flying machines, instruments of war, practical industrial and agricultural implements, an infinity chamber of mirrors, boats and transport. There are also a robot and – said to be the first time in the US – Leonardo’s famous mechanical lion.
In many cases, visitors can interact with the objects: turn cranks, manipulate hoists, etc. and observe their operation. They are accompanied by several related videos and reproductions of the Codices as well as a selection of famous Leonardo paintings and an array of merchandise. Local sponsor of Da Vinci Machines was the weekly Riverfront Times. Additional sponsorship is provided by Northstar Imports, which imports sugarless wine from Uruguay.
Rather than book the exhibit into museums, the distributor negotiates leases in private spaces. In Saint Louis, Da Vinci Machines was shown to good advantage at 800 Market Street, in a former bank lobby on the first floor of a commercial building downtown. The exhibitors found that very few changes, other than a few partitions and some seating, were needed to make the space work. “We had all the setup we needed,” says Gillam. “It worked out very well with the existing bank counters and the offices in back. It’s a beautiful space with good light and wraparound walls; we’ve been very happy. We changed out some of the light bulbs but the fixtures were already installed.” Individual tickets ranged from $9 to $14 with a special $40 price for family groups of 5. It was not far from Busch Stadium and stayed open late on baseball game nights.