Updated: Mar 22, 2022
An explosive and all-encompassing performance of color, movement and music that takes you back in time and literally puts you in the center of the turbulent life of the tortured artist is the best way I can describe Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. I attended opening night in Sarasota on March 4 to see for myself what friends and family who have experienced it in other cities have been raving about.
When we pulled up to the large white tent erected on a rare piece of open space at University Town Center, there was nothing to indicate the multimedia experience that awaited us inside. Upon entry, I was disappointed to learn that the Sarasota event did not include the virtual reality tour that is part of the immersive experience in other cities. Friends who attended the exhibit in Atlanta, Boston and New York told me how the VR headset transported them to the French café depicted in Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night and into his painting of Bedroom in Arles. My disappointment, however, quickly dissipated as we entered the first room where large colorful displays illuminated quotes, facts and portions of letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo throughout the years, providing a glimpse into his struggles and philosophical thoughts on life.
My husband and I were fortunate to take this journey with a friend, who was a teacher of French and provided us further insight into Van Gogh’s life and his paintings. We followed the “Gogh this Way” signs into a large room where, for the next 36 minutes, the cutting-edge projection technology enveloped us in a mosaic of artwork that flowed seamlessly along the walls and floors to a beautiful soundtrack of 15 songs including the classical “Vincent” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “America.”
Even those not intimately familiar with the artist and his work, will be blown away by the magnitude of seeing familiar works like “The Starry Night” and “Sunflowers” in this format. It is both breath-taking and jaw-dropping.
According to the official website, the show includes 300 works of art and more than 4 trillion content pixels to create this unique experience. The site notes: “While other shows use virtual reality images, our show breaks barriers by incorporating both still and moving art. Masterpieces, now freed from frames, come alive, appear, and disappear, flow across multi-surfaces, the minutia of details titillating our heightened senses.” It truly does make you feel as if you stepped into a Van Gogh painting, and into the mind and psyche of the artist himself.
Beyond Van Gogh will be in Sarasota through April 24 at the Starry Night Pavilion at University Town Center, 195 University Town Center Drive.