Each spring, the House of Peroni residency hits London, offering an immersive drinking experience that promises to both bend the mind and excite the palate. To do this, Peroni team up with boundary-pushing artistic talent. Recall last year's edition, where The Boiler Room on Brick Lane was transformed into a wacky dreamscape. This year's theme: virtual reality.
VR-mania has swept the art world since London's 2016 edition of Frieze, wherein Jon Rafman of Seventeen gallery created an enormous virtual snake eating its own tail (which doubled as a rather unsettling visitor seating arrangement). Since then, even traditional institutions like the Royal Academy have championed the medium, concluding its 2016 programming with a 'Virtually Real' exhibition.
'Designing a virtual reality world is therapeutic. It's escapism,' explains Fabio Giampietro, one of the artists involved in creating this year's installation. Stepping off a painfully busy Soho street into the calming, blue-tinted bar, an ethereal world begins to unfold even before you've seen a VR headset.
Artist Fabio Giampietro exploring his virtual world
A beautifully designed aperitivo and cocktail menu, courtesy of master mixologist Simone Caporale, aids the relaxation process. The Peony Peroni Bellini is a particular treat. Puréed peach is merged with Prosecco, a thimble-full of Peroni Nastro Azzuro (an unusual but successful addition) and a floral peony solution.
Once filled with a dash of dutch courage, it's time to brave the VR experience, where things amp-up somewhat. The artists and technicians involved in designing each experience have created worlds of wonder. Friends disappear, the floor vanishes beneath your feet, and the sky turns into your own private light show. Google's 'Tilt Brush' is available should visitors feel the urge to create their own 3D artwork.
VR-mania has swept the art world since London's 2016 edition of Frieze
Prepare to look foolish. On press night, one particularly animated journalist was seen enthusiastically walking into an unsuspecting barman. To prevent the otherwise inevitable smashing of cocktail glasses, an army of VR experts are on standby to hold the hands of headset-wearing guests, should they struggle to find their virtual feet.
Time will tell if VR is in danger of becoming overused and gimmicky, but for now it remains a novel experience – especially after a Peony Peroni Bellini or three.