I’m not really into art. I can appreciate the time and effort and talent (the latter of which I very much lack; I tried to draw a banana the other day and it looked like a lopsided jalapeño) that goes into creating a piece of art. But you’d have to drag me to an art museum, at which point I’d spend a few seconds looking at each item and then get bored.
Then a few months back I read The Travel Architect’s post about their visit to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit, and I was intrigued by this non-traditional art-viewing experience. I showed it to Pat and he was equally intrigued. Now we just had to decide if we were intrigued enough to pay for it. In the end, we decided we could afford to splurge a little. Sort of. We went to the exhibit, but we went on Sunday evening to avoid paying peak prices for admission.
It wasn’t what I expected. But I did enjoy it.
What I expected was a series of rooms we would walk through, in which there would be stationary projections of Van Gogh’s paintings. What it actually was was two giant rooms with scattered benches from which to view a choreographed series of projections of Van Gogh’s paintings. In the first room, the paintings were simultaneously projected on all four walls and the center of the room contained various mirrored pillars and other shapes, which created some very strange reflections.
The second room lacked mirrors but instead included the floor in the projections.
The paintings would usually appear little bits at a time, sort of like an animation. Sometimes the projections would slide in from one direction like a curtain. Or they would fade from one painting to another in a pattern akin to the transitions between slides in a PowerPoint presentation. Other times, the painting would appear one piece at a time, with one color revealed first, or the outlines appearing and slowly being colored in (as seen in the first two photos below). Often, pieces of the painting would be brought to life; the clouds would move or the blades of grass would wave in the wind.
Each painting was set to music as well, ranging from lyrical numbers to classical overtures like Pictures at an Exhibition. It was definitely an immersive experience.
It took about 30 minutes for the entire sequence to play through. We watched it twice and felt that was sufficient for us to notice different details and appreciate Van Gogh’s works.
On the way out, there was a stationary exhibit with some information about Van Gogh’s life. Like most Americans, all I knew about Van Gogh was Starry Night and that he cut off his ear. It was interesting to learn a little more about him.
If there was one thing I wish we’d done differently, it would be to research Van Gogh before attending the exhibit. It would have been fun to recognize the paintings as they were appearing. Instead, I came home and did some googling and was able to put the pieces together in reverse. Mostly. I labeled all the ones I could above… the unlabeled ones I couldn’t figure out. If anyone recognizes any of them, please let me know.
I realize an immersive exhibit isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s certainly a nontraditional way to view art. But I really enjoyed it and I came away able to recognize more of Van Gogh’s works.
Would I gogh to another immersive art exhibit in the future?
(You didn’t think I’d make it through the whole post without at least one Van Gogh pun, did you?)
The Important Stuff:
- Location: Immersive Van Gogh is being shown in twenty US cities (see the list here)
- When: the end date varies by location; in Denver, tickets are being sold through the end of May 2022
- Cost: this also varies by city; in Denver, tickets start at $35 per person (for off-peak hours) and increase to over $100 per person (peak pricing, including add-ons and additional experiences)
- Other: although Omicron was going strong at the time, we felt safe attending this exhibit. Masks were required (and wearing them was actually being enforced) and benches were spaced out. We wore N95s and kept our distance from other parties, and it all worked out well