Today, a Van Gogh can fetch more than $100 million in the world of art investment. During his short lived life, he sold but one painting!
If you are unfamiliar with the backstory, Van Gogh spent most of his days in his native Holland – where there is a beautifully appointed museum in Amsterdam dedicated to his life and works – and later in Belgium, Paris, and in the south of France in a town called Arles. Volumes have been dedicated to the man who took his own life at age 37, not long after cutting off a piece of his left ear following an argument with his former friend and contemporary artist Paul Gauguin.
We learned about these intriguing factoids and many others while recently touring the Van Gogh Immersion Experience Exhibit in downtown Seattle. The pop-up museum is located at 1750 Occidental Avenue South in a converted 44,000 square-foot warehouse building that has been decked out to handle a whole array of digital Van Gogh imagery; a two-story tall projection room featuring the artist’s greatest works; and an amazing Virtual Reality tour of “A Day in the Life of the Artist”.
The Immersion Experience has been journeying nationwide since 2017 and has been in Seattle since last year. It’s slated to be in Seattle until at least the end of May. For more information on the exhibit and how to purchase tickets visit: https://vangoghexpo.com/seattle/.
Wrapping your head around someone as complex as Van Gogh, who was delusional and psychotic, ate poorly and drank too much, isn’t easy. But the immersive experience walks you through his life almost as if you were there next to him every step of the way. At $36 a pop, admission isn’t cheap, but what’s gratifying to both Van Gogh aficionados and novices alike is that the exhibit limits the number of people who enter at any one time.
When you buy tickets, you are given a designated time slot for your arrival and entrance. As a result, patrons can mosey their way through the exhibit, reading the biographical information and studying the digitized pictures (which look darn real, by the way) at their leisure and without the masses pressing up against them. The Immersion Experience is essentially broken up into three sections.
The first area is more or less a traditional museum setting, with paintings on the walls, write-ups of Van Gogh’s life and experiences, and some very cool three-dimensional exhibits – including a huge sculpture of his head that is lit up by a rotating laser feature.
What’s not to be missed is the line-up of what many consider his Top 10 paintings. Some of these masterpieces should be familiar to anyone who’s ever cracked open a fine arts book, and include: “Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” “Wheatfield With Crows,” “The Potato Eaters,” “Café Terrace at Night,” “Starry Night Over the Rhone,” “Bedroom in Arles,” “Almo Blossom,” “Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear,” and “Irises”.
According to the exhibit, Van Gogh created 2,000 works of art in his short life: 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. The vast majority of his art was completed during the last 10 years of his life, with a new piece being made every 36 hours on average!
After absorbing the paintings, displays and other information about Van Gogh, patrons move into what can only be described as the “Great Hall.” Here, sitting on lounge chairs, one can take in all of the artist’s signature works projected on a two-story, 360-degree screen, as well as on the floor. It’s a feast for the senses, and digitally illustrates most of his signature works and expressions, such as, “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything.”
Next you move into an adjacent room where line drawings of the artist’s famous works are hanging on the wall. Patrons are invited to color in the drawings, using their own imaginations, and then, if they wish, hang them up for view. Around the next corner, in another large room, there are seats facing the wall, and Virtual Reality headsets attached to them.
For some, this 10 to 12 minute experience is the highlight of the day. You are essentially taken back in time and shown where Van Gogh created his most memorable paintings, from the “Potato Eaters” to “Starry Night Over the Rhone.” We did it twice, just to absorb the three-dimensional effect of wheat fields, cows and sheep grazing, the famous yellow house, primitive forests, and a Paris café scene from the 1880s.
If you can somehow fit the “Van Gogh Immersion Experience Exhibit” into your budget and schedule, it’s definitely worth the time and effort.
Photographs by Kevin Dwyer
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