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Immersive Van Gogh exhibit comes to the U.S., provides escape from pandemic

Immersive Van Gogh Chicago
Posted at 11:56 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 16:20:52-05

CHICAGO — We could all use an escape right now. That’s what a new art exhibit on display now for the first time in the U.S. aims to do.

The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Chicago opened late last week and it's already sold out for months. The exhibit's hi-tech projection system takes the viewer inside the artist’s works, all while ensuring the immersive experience is pandemic-friendly.

“The first thing that that hits you when you walk into the room and you see is just the size of the scale and how you can observe Van Gogh's technique,” said exhibit producer Corey Ross.

Designed by digital artist Massimiliano Siccardi and with music composed by Luca Longobardi, over 400 images are projected onto 500,000 cubic feet inside a historic neoclassical building.

“The transformation of the architecture by the art in and of itself is also completely fascinating,” said Ross.

Masks are required during the 45-minute, walk-through exhibit. Projected circles on the flooring guide social distancing, and surfaces are cleaned continuously.

“Van Gogh was a guy who had a really tough time in life. He was depressed. He was isolated. He was frustrated and not getting to get done what he wanted to get done,” said Ross. “I think that's all stuff that we can relate to now.”

It’s been described as a sort of stream of consciousness narrative, taking the viewer inside the mind of Van Gogh and imagining what may have flashed before his eyes in the moments before he passed away.

“It becomes this extraordinary adventure in color and brushstroke and image and concepts that covers really all of Van Gogh's life.”

Fans of the Netflix series "Emily in Paris" may be familiar with the exhibit. It recently wrapped up a successful year-and-half run in France. About 200,000 people have safely come through the Toronto display since last July. And last week, Immersive Van Gogh made its U.S. premiere in Chicago.

“There's over 15 miles of fiber optic cabling that we're putting into the building,” said Ross.

Technology drives the choreography, and 24 computers control the 74 projectors.

“One hundred and fifty-five million pixels is what's being displayed; it's immense,” said Branden Charlton, the exhibit’s production manager.

The real goal he says is making it seamless.

“I don't even want you to realize where the light's coming from,” said Charlton. “I want you to stand there in amazement and turn around and see another image that you haven't seen yet.”

Ross says it’s a chance to lose one’s self in Van Gogh’s art.

“The art transcends and continues and it's interesting to today, and it's a message of hope that I think everybody needs right now,” Ross said.