Beyond Van Gogh exhibit gives a new perspective on the artist
By Julia Barth, Features Editor
A makeshift building stands outside of the entrance to the Eastern Hills mall, massive in size and unable to be ignored. People stream in the tiny entrance: a family of four has an eagerness on their faces, anticipation touching their eyes. It is a Friday afternoon, sunny and 75 degrees. One by one, cars pull into the packed parking lot — not with the intent of doing some start-of-the-weekend shopping, but instead to be entranced by the magic and wonder that is Beyond Van Gogh.
Brought to Buffalo at the end of August this year, the Beyond Van Gogh immersive exhibit (that has sites in many other major US cities) has attracted thousands of Buffalonians to see the artist and his work up close and personal. With multiple rooms to explore, attendees learn about Vincent Van Gogh’s life, letters and backstory, while also being able to see the intricate details of his finest creations, projected in 360 degrees.
The first room is the dedicated educational room, taking the time to condense Van Gogh’s whirlwind life story into brightly lit panels enhanced with shots of his paintings in the background and stories encapsulating his life in the foreground. They detail his upbringing, his love for art and how it developed over time and his failed attempts at becoming an art dealer and a preacher.
Sprinkled throughout the educational room were some of his famous quotes from the letters he wrote to his brother Theo. Everything from success to inspiration kept Van Gogh’s mind occupied when he was alive, and the letters to Theo demonstrate how reflective a person he was, even in the times he was struggling with his mental health and identity.
Taking crucial moments to look at himself, his art and the world around him, Van Gogh’s ability to articulate his present struggles with such genuine vulnerability must be marveled at, a feat some of the best artists are only able to accomplish once those moments are part of the past.
Van Gogh had an unparalleled way with words, but his genius in art is where his legacy lies. The immersive room has his art projected onto every crack and crevice of the wide-open space. Delicate and classical music plays softly in the background, creating an ambience that complementa the art as it comes and goes from the walls.
The immersive room is on a 30-minute loop, and within those 30 minutes the audience has the privilege of exploring Van Gogh’s work: from his first-ever art pieces to his portraits of himself and others to his most famous landscapes and views that he so brilliantly conceived. This audio-visual experience makes his art come alive, and the up-close look at his works has the audience appreciating each brush stroke. One can clearly see his every movement behind each swipe, and his deep, emotional connection with these people and places.
This room is worth experiencing twice through, taking a whole hour to soak up the paintings and the extraordinary way of presenting them to the public. The audience sees some of his most famous pieces while also being able to explore some lesser-known works. Some of the art to explore in the immersive room includes “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers” and “Wheatfield with Crows.”
There has been some criticism towards the new Van Gogh exhibit, with some people saying his work should be appreciated as it was created — as a traditional painting.
I cannot disagree that being able to see Van Gogh’s masterpieces in the flesh would possibly outweigh any projection of them on a glorified pop-up tent’s wall. However, with his paintings scattered across the world, living in many different museums and galleries, Beyond Van Gogh is a great and accessible way to experience his work. Not everyone can see them in person, and that is completely normal and — frankly — expected. The immersive experience is a way to get to know the artist and his works, and hopefully make a connection with Van Gogh as a person. For me, Beyond Van Gogh did just that.
Beyond Van Gogh is a new way to honor the life, art and legacy of the artist, and although others may prefer viewing his works in the traditional sense, I think Van Gogh would have wanted us to appreciate the beauty that comes with this immersive experience. He once wrote, “Find things beautiful as much as you can, most people find too little beautiful.”
You can purchase tickets and find more information at vangoghbuffalo.com.