Visitors to a Dutch exhibition titled “The Blind Spot” may call it a little cheesy – but they mean that as a compliment.
Utrecht Central Museum launched the unusual project this month in a push to make its offerings more accessible and enjoyable for the visually impaired.
The exhibit recreates existing paintings but with extra dimensions, such as sound and smell – including the aroma of ripe cheese. And for once, museum-goers are allowed to touch.
Sighted visitors are encouraged to wear a blindfold as they experience works including a version of the 1610 Still Life with Fruit, Nuts and Cheese by Floris van Dyck.
“The first thing that struck me was the smell,” said Farid el Manssouri, who is visually impaired, smiling after he ran his hands over cheese, grapes and a bread roll made into objects from Van Dyck’s original canvas.
“I could really smell the cheese, and I touched it too.”
El Manssouri pondered how the table was slanted yet the food did not fall off. “That was really surprising to feel … I guess it was glued on pretty well.”
Artist Jasper Udink ten Cate and designer Jeroen Prins said the idea came when they served food to accompany an artwork, and a blind woman visiting was very moved.
“That moment was the starting point,” Ten Cate said.
Steffie Maas, the museum’s head of inclusivity, said Blind Spot was one experiment on the way to more improvements, with better accessibility and facilities as important as the display.
“I think it’s an amazing experience, which is, to my idea, quite unique in the Netherlands,” said another appreciative visitor, Bas Suurland.
“It triggers the other senses, other than visual sense.”