We’re here today to talk about the immersive Van Gogh exhibit that you are bound to see coming to a city near you in the next year or so. Why are we talking about that? Simple , I can't shut up about it, and you're the only audience I have whose annoyance over my excitement I cannot see. Huzzah!
Vincent Van Gogh is a dutch painter who lived from 1853-1890. His style is categorized as post-impressionism and he is known for his use of color to express emotion. And now that I have used big words to sound smart, I can explain more clearly: He’s the guy with the pretty swirly pictures. If you still can't picture his work, take a second to google it and I know you will have seen it before. His most famous painting is, of course, “Starry Night” though it is highly likely you have also seen his self-portraits, landscapes, and flowers as well.
Van Gogh’s paintings have withstood the test of time published in books, showcased in museums, and adorning the sweatshirts of white girls everywhere. The most famous collection of his work is at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum located in Amsterdam, the capital city of The Netherlands.
Okay, enough background, let’s talk about me. ;) I, like many of you, had seen Van Gogh’s paintings throughout my life but had never gone out of my way to look further. I would have gladly visited the museum while in Amsterdam, but did not put in enough effort to know you needed tickets almost two months in advance. That was until I heard about the new digital and immersive Van Gogh exhibits. This exhibit debuted in Europe and was getting high praise when it was popularized in America through an artistic endeavor as influential in the world as Van Gogh himself... the Netflix Original Series Emily in Paris
Now, I will be taking no criticism about watching this show. It is fun and if you dislike it, good for you, dislike it somewhere else.
The main characters of the show visit the immersive Van Gogh experience in Paris, France and I was struck by how beautiful it appeared on screen. The exhibit slowly made its way to the states beginning first in cities like New York and Chicago. I had heard it was coming to Vegas, but that's still pretty far away from me. Then I heard it was coming to Salt Lake City which is quite close, however, I was unavailable on ALL OF THE DATES.
I let Mr. Vincent slip from my mind until my mom and I decided to take a little trip down to Southern Utah, which is, as you might have guessed, QUITE close to Las Vegas. So we made a little detour and went to the exhibit.
I hope you didn't read this for a quick 1 line review, we’re 6 paragraphs in and I’m not even close.
I attended the Van Gogh experience at Area 51 in Las Vegas, and... It’s amazing.
You walk into a large open room. There are couches and chairs along the outside of the room, there are high-top tables in the middle. People are scattered about. The video presentation is around 30 minutes long, however, you are welcome to remain in the room for as long as you like. (in total I think mom and I watched the presentation about 3 times)
This presentation is so cool. For a painter whose style is so closely tied to movement, they take it to a whole other level. By animating the paintings, they bring a whole new life to them. Additionally, the movement of the presentation is set to large orchestral music as well as voice-over clips of quotes from Van Gogh’s journals. It really makes you a bit emotional when it all works together in this way.
The presentation is set to represent the artist's journey from drawing, to bright color painting, to a descent into darker color and madness, then rounds out again on a hopeful note. See the photos and videos below to get a better idea of what I am simply failing to put words to.
The space had a drink menu including a French wine list (so mom was happy). One thing I am glad we did that really added to my experience was moving seats. We watched the presentation once from couches at the far side of the room, then moved to chairs more centrally located for the second time.
I could probably spend five days slowly adding in more details and thoughts, so let's bullet point it out and get you some pictures….
Why it's so cool:
I think this has opened the doors for curation. It's so exciting to think of ways museums can further incorporate video and tech like this to breathe new life into the crusty dusty old art of years ago.
I think this introduces a new level of accessibility which can be seen by how many cities across the globe are featuring this exhibit. No, it does not replace seeing an actual Van Gogh, but I assure you there are people who have seen his paintings solely because of this exhibit.
What I thought would be different:
I won’t just lie and tell you everything is great, though that does tend to be my M.O.
The Area 51 experience only projected the presentation on the four walls of the room, I have seen others where the painting are also represented on the ceiling and on the floor (I think this is an important element of what makes the exhibit successful if no matter where you are the painting is at least in part projected on you. I believe this to be an important aspect as it makes you feel like you are part of the art. You Are Art. This was still at play in the Area 51 exhibit, but not as powerfully)
Because of the space that was used there were large garage doors, pulley chains, and electrical boxes on the walls. While it is impossible to have a space with completely clear walls, these were a little distracting from the viewing experience.
Overall, just go. I am always going to tell everyone to experience everything for themselves and make their own opinion, but I will still tell you mine.
In my opinion: it's just great.
I do think this exhibit is something that will be talked about and referenced for years to come so if it comes to a city near you, check it out. And hell, check out Emily in Paris while you're at it too. I can't say you'll love it, but I promise at least part of it will make you laugh!
Just two red-heads contemplating life....
"Color Itself speaks its own language, you cannot live without it"
I love this image from near the end of the presentation.
"You must start by experiencing what you want to express"
A wonderful example of the artistry of the curator showing through the animation.
Look at those crows, this moment is so cool as they fly the perimeter of the room.