March 31, 2023

For all those Vincent van Gogh fans who once stood cheek to cheek in the Museum of Modern Art to take a selfie before “The Starry Night”, there are suddenly more and more opportunities to bathe in the picture.

In Chicago and St. Petersburg, Florida, haunting experiences have emerged that transform the walls and floors of an exhibition space into a kind of Van Gogh dream world.

Others come to Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia and Charlotte, NC

Boston, Dallas, Miami, and New York each receive two “experiences” created separately by some of the half-dozen or so companies that now produce Van Gogh immersive shows.

“In a competitive world, people will naturally try to replicate themselves,” said Rob Kirk, director of travel experiences at Grande Experiences, whose Van Gogh Alive show (currently on display at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg) has been on display since 2011. “It’s flattering.”

Depending on where they live, fans also have the choice between “Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition” or “Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit” or “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” or “Beyond Van Gogh”.

Confused? For example, some ticket buyers have complained on social media that they bought presale tickets for the wrong events because the names were so similar.

The haunting experiences were first popularized in Europe over a decade ago. One with Van Gogh was even seen on the Netflix show “Emily in Paris” last year.

In most experiences in the United States, socially distant guests wearing masks walk through rooms and hear a score on Van Gogh’s work. The projections move, the images change from dark to light, the colors explode. The scale, the images and the impact of being in van Gogh’s work made some visitors cry.

Groups and families often sit in circles on the floor, six feet apart, to drink his almond blossoms or “The Starry Night Over the Rhône” (1888). Sometimes children run among the projected sunflowers. Some exhibits feature aromas of cypress, cedar, sandalwood, and nutmeg with hints of lemon and vetiver to transport people to orchards, gardens, and fields. Another uses a virtual reality headset.

Nadine Granoff, research director of a company that authenticates and evaluates van Gogh artwork, said the immersive experiences “have the potential to be really helpful in understanding the entire artist, rather than just seeing something in isolation on the wall. It can really make it come alive. “

Other artists like Picasso and Monet have been the subject of haunting experiences, but as the ubiquity of the traveling Van Gogh shows makes clear, he’s the rock star of the genre. Experts say Van Gogh’s popularity stems from the fact that his pictures of people, landscapes, and still lifes are so accessible but still glow in innovative and bold colors. The backstory of his life, including a struggle with mental health problems, resonates with many too.

In 2008 Annabelle Mauger created her first immersive van Gogh exhibition based on what she learned about immersive experiences from her husband’s grandfather, who created an early model called Image Totale. She further adapted it and worked with an art historian to showcase the last two years of the artist’s life. She wanted people to appreciate the details of Van Gogh’s artwork and his thick and sometimes violent-looking brush strokes without the barrier of a frame.

“It’s only you in the picture,” said Mauger.

According to Mauger and other producers of the exhibitions, the haunting experiences should complement the works exhibited in a museum and not take them away. They are especially useful for introducing children to art who, due to their size, may not see paintings well in crowded museums. It also replaces the often rigid museum label with its almost silent atmosphere and the strict restrictions that are supposed to protect the work of art with a relaxed atmosphere full of music, lazing around and chatting.

The show “Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition”, which she helped to create, will arrive at the SoWa power plant in December in Boston.

The “Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit” (be careful reader, that’s the name of another show) is already open in Chicago and is being broadcast to six other cities, including New York. It is the exhibition shown in “Emily in Paris” and designed by Massimiliano Siccardi who has carried out previous Van Gogh projects in Europe.

Siccardi redesigns the experience to match the architecture of the exhibition space, trying to tell the story according to a loose stream of consciousness that guides visitors through a replica of Van Gogh’s perspective with large images and animations, said Corey Ross, producer of the exhibition.

Siccardi’s intention, said Ross, is “to go into van Gogh’s mind to show us what flashed before his eyes before he died.”

Tickets to the Van Gogh shows, which are produced by nonprofits, range from $ 25 to $ 65 for adults. Indianapolis does not set ticket prices for a Van Gogh exhibition to open THE LUME, a new digital art installation space in Newfield’s, the city’s art campus, that contains content from Grande Experiences, the makers of Van Gogh Alive .

A price tag of $ 25 did little to dampen the excitement of 29-year-old Sarah Bevil, a self-described Van Gogh fanatic from Zephyrhills, Florida.

She waited months to visit the Van Gogh Alive exhibition in the Dalí Museum. Bevil, who decorated her entire office with pictures from “The Starry Night”, traveled through the exhibition with her partner and children in January.

“You look down and have half of ‘Starry Night’ on your body,” she said of the experience. “It surprises you and brings you into the picture.”

Also a surprise for Bevil that evening: her 10-year-old partner got on one knee to make a suggestion in the gardens of the museum.

It was a starry, starry night indeed. She said yes.