110,000 cubic feet of hot air tout extension of van Gogh exhibit in Minneapolis to Feb. 6

Van Gogh Still
The Vincent van Gogh hot air balloon is 91 feet tall and 60 feet wide, holding holds 110,000 cubic feet of air when fully inflated — the equivalent of 110,000 basketballs. (WKBT News Now photo by Mike Tighe)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WKBT) — Temperamental artist Vincent van Gogh got a swelled head — figuratively and literally — Saturday when a hot-air balloon rose on the banks of the misty Mississippi River to herald the extension of the “Immersive van Gogh Exhibit Minneapolis” through Feb. 6.

The balloon, at 91 feet high and 60 feet wide, holds 110,000 cubic feet of air when fully inflated — the equivalent of 110,000 basketballs, said owner Bennett Schwontkowski, director at Corporate Balloons & Promotions in Nashville, Tenn.

Schwontkowski acknowledged that the amazing likeness of the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter has two ears instead of one with a quip, “We got two for one because it was a Tuesday.”

Tradition holds that, in a fit of anger after a quarrel with fellow painter Paul Gauguin in 1888, the mentally tormented van Gogh lopped off part of his left ear, walked to a brothel and gave the carved cartilage to a perplexed prostitute, then went home and slept in a bloody bed.

Minneapolis is the second U.S. city, after Chicago, where the van Gogh balloon has risen in the promotional blitz for the exhibit, which opened Aug. 13 at Lighthouse Minneapolis, was extended to Oct. 31 and now, until Feb. 6.

The exhibit, which features a fabulous 500,000 cubic feet of projections, a spectacular 60,600 frames of video and a prodigious 90,000,000 pixels of special effects, has been drawing 3,000 people a day, said Bridget Berg, special events coordinator for the venue.

The tethered balloon launch at Boom Island Park near Lighthouse Minneapolis was “our way of announcing the extension,” Berg said.

The hand-painted balloon was custom-created in Bristol, England, said Schwontkowski, who reveled in the calm day after the sun dissolved the mist that had risen from the river and in the wake of a series of rainy, windy days in the Twin Cities.

“We’ve been blessed,” he said with a smile. “We asked for windless and no-rain dance. What a beautiful day to raise a balloon.”

Minneapolis is one of 17 cities in the United States and Toronto in Canada hosting the immersive exhibit.


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