Immersive van Gogh exhibit in Minneapolis thrills art aficionados, novices with starry, starry sights

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WKBT) — Vincent van Gogh might even think cutting off his ear was worth it, if he were alive to see the wildly enthusiastic reaction to the “Immersive van Gogh Exhibit Minneapolis.”
Indeed, he might not have taken his own life, at the age of 37, if he had had an inkling of the posthumous popularity that contrasts so sharply with his torturous, and tortured, life.
Minneapolis, where the immersion opened Aug. 13 and has been extended to Oct. 31, is one of 17 cities in the United States and Toronto in Canada hosting the show. Tickets are few and far between until the end of September, when availability opens up a bit — if you don’t let the paint dry on the reservation calendar.
The term “immersion” suits the exhibit to a T, as dozens of projectors provide surround-vision of van Gogh’s works and/or embellishments. At times, the projections also are cast on the floor, often creating the illusion that observers are going up or down on an elevator.
Indeed, when walking amongst the kaleidoscopic display, one can feel as if he or she is walking unsteadily, almost as if inebriated.
The brilliant visuals range from the Dutch painter’s sunny landscapes and night scenes to portraits and still-life paintings. The show includes the “Mangeurs de pommes de terre” (“The Potato Eaters,” 1885), the “Nuit étoilée” (“Starry Night,” 1889), “Les Tournesols” (“Sunflowers,” 1888), and “La Chambre à coucher” (“The Bedroom,” 1889), among others.
By the numbers, the show features an incredible 500,000 cubic feet of projections, an astonishing 60,600 frames of video and a gobsmacking 90,000,000 pixels.
The magnificence mesmerizes not only adults but also children so young you’d think they might bore easily. Instead, they gaze, spellbound, at the prismatic presentation. Patrons sit silently, occasionally whispering in awed wonder trying to figure out how the exhibit was produced.
Massimiliano Siccardi, a pioneer in immersive digital art experiences in France, conceived of and designed the exhibit, enhanced with a soundtrack by Luca Longobardi another star of French digital art.
Now, about van Gogh’s ear: Tradition holds that, in a fit of anger after a quarrel with fellow painter Paul Gauguin in 1888, the mentally disturbed van Gogh lopped off part of his ear, walked to a brothel and gave the carved cartilage to a dumbfounded prostitute, then went home and slept in a blood-soaked bed.
As the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, presents it: Hallucinations often burdened Van Gogh, who “suffered attacks in which he lost consciousness. During one of these attacks, he used the knife (to cut off his ear). He could later recall nothing about the event.”
However, in 2009, The Guardian British newspaper featured a report that two German art historians who had spent a decade “reviewing the police investigations, witness accounts and the artists’ letters, argue that Gauguin, a fencing ace, most likely sliced off the ear with his sword during a fight, and the two artists agreed to hush up the truth.”
Wherever the truth lies, one fact remains: Neither artist was appreciated in life, but both became bigger than life after death.
And now, van Gogh immerses art aficionados as well as novices. Take that, Paul Gaughin.
Tickets to the Minneapolis exhibit range from $29 to around $99, depending on whether you’re seeking a slot at peak, off peak, VIP or premium.

Check out one of the displays, with “Non je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf as the musical accompaniment:

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