Tatiana Trouvé, Sans titre, 2007 © ADAGP, Paris 2017. Photo by Daniele Resini.

"Dioramas" at Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France.

On view June 14 through September 10, 2017.

In summer 2017, Palais de Tokyo will be staging "Dioramas," an exhibition that explores the diorama as an unexpected source of inspiration for contemporary art. At the crossroads of art, cinema, and theater, this cross-disciplinary exhibition is the first large survey to recontextualize the diorama with a renewed approach to the history of spectatorship, including the influence of science and technology, popular culture, fun fairs, and exhibitions.

Honoré de Balzac promoted the diorama as “the marvel of the century”1. Following the tradition of 17th century magic lanterns, the invention of the diorama in the 19th century played a crucial role in the history of visual culture and mass spectacle.

In its early days, the diorama invented by Louis Daguerre was a large semi-transparent canvas behind which natural or artificial lights would create atmospheric effects. Performing the illusion of motion and change, the duration of the diorama anticipated the invention of cinema. However, today, the diorama is better known as an entertaining pedagogical tool in museums of natural history. Recreating a three-dimensional scene frozen in time and space, the diorama is usually enclosed in a display case, composed of a painted backdrop, props and figures. The viewer is invited to believe in the authenticity of the artificial scenery as an early form of virtual reality. Although the etymology of diorama means “to see through”, the device also stands as a screen onto which a world of fantasy and fiction merges with the display of knowledge and science.


Palais de Tokyo | T. +33.1.4723.3886
13 Avenue du Président Wilson | 75116 Paris | France
Website: Palais de Tokyo | Dioramas


Honoré de Balzac, Letter to his sister Laure, 1822