“Above Van Gogh”: The Influencer’s Dream or the Hell of an Art Lover?


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In recent years, art has taken on new platforms that reach an audience larger than posh travelers, snobbish critics and art nerds. You no longer need to visit world-class museums to experience creativity first hand. Through digital art, projectors and motion detectors, immersive experiences have taken over the modern art world.

But what happens when you mix this format with world-famous artists from the past – say, Vincent van Gogh?

“Well, we’re not a museum,” says Sebastian Grenier-Cartier, CEO of Normal Studios. “You can’t pretend you can replace a painting. It’s not an idea.”

“Beyond Van Gogh: Immersive Experience”, created by Normal Studios based in Montreal, has its world premiere today, April 15, at the Ice Palace studios in downtown Miami. It is an immersive experience that takes viewers through projections of 300 Dutch masterpieces. (The current exhibition should not be confused with another “immersive experience” focused on Van Gogh’s “Van Gogh: Immersive Experience,” which announced its arrival this summer.)

The exhibition begins with a full of references to the artist’s famous series “Sunflowers”. Large installations of works decorate the room, and the reconstruction wall of Van Gogh’s “Irises” creates faux fur – making it an ideal photograph for influencers.

After everyone has taken a selfie or 20, visitors move through another hall thematically arranged into another recognizable piece. Famous Starry night suffocating small space, front mirrors and glittering neon signs.

Photo: Ashley-Anna Aboreden

Then all of a sudden everything moves and the spectators find themselves in a dark room with a projection on a single entrance – an introduction to what lies further. On the door is a self-portrait of Van Gogh, moving between brush strokes and muted colors, as if inviting the visitor into his mind. In front is a long, winding room in which the artist’s life and career are presented in textual detail. Feelings range from a desire to take a sweet photo to an understanding of the deep pain that permeated the artist’s short life.

Empty gold frames are hung between the projected texts. They may seem like just another photograph, but perhaps these frames reflect, as described in the text, how Van Gogh’s art was created by his trauma. Reading and slowly indulging through this section makes all the difference when you enter the next and last room of the exhibition.

In this massive space, ambient music plays as viewers watch the digitized movements of Van Gogh’s works projected onto walls and floors. Sometimes only one work is projected; the second time it is a group of paintings, as in moments filled with multiple self-portraits. The most satisfying aspect of this experience is the ability to stand inside Van Gogh’s masterpiece and feel part of the image as colors move around you and sounds carry you.

But can it really be said to be an interactive experience?

“Yes, we have moved the border. Yes, we played with pictures. But I think we did it out of respect and mostly out of an idea when we think we took a step further, “Grenier-Cartier says.” What we see is a picture as a gem, but really, we believe that we are creating a dialogue and are able to immerse people in the picture: if you were in the picture, where would you be and what would it be? That is our intention. ”

Photo: Ashley-Anna Aboreden

In today’s world of real-time news and instant gratification, long chunks of information are rarely read, and works of art are barely digested. It is easy to experience this exhibition quickly without recognizing the significance behind Van Gogh. It’s also easy to experience “Beyond Van Gogh” as a quick influence on social media. Perhaps there would be more ways of interaction, such as activities triggered by motion sensors that forced viewers to engage in a multitude of displayed masterpieces, there would be a greater sense of appreciation of the artist’s significance.

Grenier-Cartier hopes that those prone to immersive experiences and modern art will discover that “Beyond Van Gogh” opens their eyes and ears to these timeless paintings and allows them to consider visiting an art museum to see the actual physical arrangement.

But what about purists who don’t need extra encouragement?

“I think what we want you to understand is that we did it out of respect and to understand our creative process – and that what we’re doing is pushing a person into a picture, not just projecting it onto a wall. Because anyone can do it, ”says Grenier-Cartier.

Experiences are individual. Those who are ready to part with the $ 40 entry fee can draw their own conclusions about the effectiveness of mixing classic masterpieces with the phenomenon of modern art.

“Above Van Gogh: Immersive Experience.” Until Sunday, July 11, at Ice Palace Studios, 1400 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-347-7400; icepalacestudios.com. Tickets cost from $ 40 to $ 94 vangoghmiami.com.

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