"Mona Lisa" comes to life in high-tech art exhibit

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - For centuries, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and her enigmatic smile have inspired as much speculation as admiration. Now she’s ready to answer questions -- in Mandarin.

A digital, interactive version of the renowned 16th century painting is one of 61 high-tech replicas breathing life into classical and ancient art works in the “World Classic Interactive Arts Exhibition” which opened in Beijing last week.

These recreations of works by old masters and renowned modern painters were crafted by a South Korean gallery. Exhibition organizer Wang Hui said it took two years of preparation and a hefty investment to bring the works to China.

“What’s special about this is that it’s the first time the 3D technology, holographic technology, and voice recognition technology is fused together in one exhibit,” Wang told Reuters.

As is the case with the original painting in the Louvre in Paris, the digital Mona Lisa is the star attraction. She talks and waves to visitors, who ask her age and about her life.

“Hello, I am the Mona Lisa. It’s nice to meet you,” she says in Mandarin.

“The Last Supper” is another da Vinci painting digitally brought to life, and in which Jesus talks to the apostles and moves across the plasma canvas.

The exhibit also includes a multimedia play by life-size replicas of ancient statues of Greek and Roman gods and goddess, who brag about their virtues and beauty while striking poses.

“I studied fine arts in college. In studios they’re all stationary, but here they are alive and moving around. It’s surprising and vivid,” said exhibit visitor Zhao Yuanzhi.

As the exhibit tries to reveal art in a new light, it also attempts to answer one of the most enduring questions in the world -- what’s behind the Mona Lisa’s smile.

When asked, the digital portrait is programed to talk about how she became pregnant after the death of a child and about the sorrow and happiness in her life.

She also acknowledges that many people find her smile mysterious.

Editing by Miral Fahmy