Immersive Art Spectaculars

Immersive Art Spectaculars. Excerpt from article in

Back in 2020, a pandemic swept over much of the globe. People turned inward and went out sparingly to places where they could be with others, yet physically distanced.

No, not Covid. The epidemic this story documents is that of immersive art exhibits that today are moving digital projections of masterpieces into urban spaces for the enjoyment of people who would never even think of going to a museum.

Milwaukee was among the first American cities to experience an Immersive Van Gogh art exhibition.

North American cities are preparing exhibits featuring 19th-century artist Gustav Klimt and Mexican icon Frida Kahlo. Similar shows on Paul Cezanne and Russian Wassily Kandinsky will soon appear in France.  The presentations combine moody sounds with subtle lighting and digital images that slowly creep around walls and over ceilings and floors. People stand raptly, almost transfixed, immersed in flowing art that seemingly has escaped the museum so it can play with the public’s imagination.

It all began with Vincent van Gogh. In the summer of 2020, his tortured self-portrait began appearing on telephone poles and bus stops around Toronto. They promoted a new kind of art exhibit: “Immersive Van Gogh,” a sound, light and musical experience of the tormented Dutch painter’s work.

Those who bought tickets to “Immersive van Gogh” saw over 400 moving images projected on the walls and floors of a cavernous newspaper printing plant. There were yellow sunflowers and blue irises, mauve olive groves, each morphing into another painting. You could see the artist’s thick, intense brush strokes.  It was a trippy way of experiencing art while observing social distancing.

Constantly drifting paintings break apart only to merge back together. In The Potato Eaters (1885), a dark portrayal of poor farmers, portraits of impoverished people emerge individually before assembling around the table in van Gogh’s painting. The windmill blades of Le Moulin de Galette (1886) move, while the rest of the painting is still. The white flowers of Almond Blossom (1886) float through the air and land on the dark branches set against a blue sky.

Read more in my article Immersive Art Spectaculars Take Art Outside Museums for Public Enjoyment.

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