Imagine Van Gogh started in Europe, and due to its popularity, those living in North America can experience this one-of-a-kind art exhibition. The immersive event allows event-goers to see hundreds of Van Gogh’s paintings on a grand scale. So, put aside your ideas of traditional art galleries where paintings are hung on walls because this unique exhibit travels without the original Van Gogh artwork.
Instead, visitors enjoy the large images projected onto huge canvases while listening to the sounds of serene classical music. The images are constantly moving and changing and also cast across the floor. Surrounded by beautiful brush strokes, I almost felt like I was part of the canvas.
The Creators Of Imagine Van Gogh
Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron, known for their immersive exhibits in France, are this traveling gallery’s creators. This non-traditional exhibit uses projectors to display the paintings in high-definition onto floor-to-ceiling canvases. The mesmerizing works are fragmented and shown in various sizes around the dark room. As the images faded, I stood in anticipation of what would appear next.
While I had seen genuine Van Gogh pieces in London, England, not seeing the originals did not detract from the experience. Being immersed in the giant Sunflowers, Wheat Fields with Crows, and Starry Night, gave me a different appreciation for Van Gogh’s work.
I visited the show at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Before the exhibition opened in Vancouver, I had registered online for upcoming information and when tickets were available. Unfortunately, the tickets sold out quickly for the initial shows, and I waited two months to attend. While the event has ended in Vancouver, Canada, it has continued into other cities.
In October 2022, Imagine Van Gogh will open in London, Ontario.
What to Expect
Before booking, I didn’t know what to expect at this particular show. While I knew the exhibit projected the artwork, I expected several rooms of Van Gogh’s work. However, the 25,000 sq. foot exhibit takes place in one giant room. Being indoors, the show made for a great rainy day Vancouver activity, although we were blessed with a hot, sunny day.
Due to Covid-19, the event is contactless and limited to reduced numbers inside the convention room. We used our QR codes at arrival and had to sanitize our hands before entering. Face masks are mandatory during the event to comply with government safety orders. We could not touch the canvases or put anything on the floor since the ground was another canvas.
The event features two large rooms. The first allowed us to read about the creation of the exhibit and the life of Van Gogh. The large, easy-to-read boards were suspended from the ceiling in four rows, allowing groups to social distance. The panels are double-sided, and I noticed some people didn’t see that and missed vital information on the back. It took about 20 minutes to read about Van Gogh’s sad life, a self-taught artist with the existence of poverty, a struggle with mental illness, and a lack of connection to other people.
At one point in his life, he was committed to a mental asylum where he had two rooms; one to sleep and another to paint. Here, he dabbled in portraits of people surrounding him and still-life images. He also painted pictures of things that gave him joy; the giant sunflowers in the field, fishing boats on the beach, and gardens of colorful flowers. Unlike most artists with a distinct style, Van Gogh’s works spread over a wide range of topics.
The Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit
In Vancouver, Canada, a Monday to Thursday admission costs CAD 39.99 for adults and CAD 34.99 for children (4-15). Friday to Sunday costs CD 10.00 more. VIP packages are CAD 99.00, which includes admission, a mask, a program, and a poster.
Imagine Van Gogh projects over 200 of his paintings on a continuous loop so, no matter when you arrive, you’ll see all of his works. The loop takes just over half an hour, although we stayed over an hour to appreciate his pieces one more time. While several other Van Gogh immersive shows appear across the continents, they all have one thing in common, a projection of his paintings that embodies and invigorates the viewer.
During the Vancouver show, images are projected on the surrounding walls, floor, and a cube-shaped canvas in the middle of the space. While some are stationary, others scroll from side to side or up and down. The moving paintings added an element of movement to the still-life pieces.
Much of Van Gogh’s originals are small in size, so seeing his work at an amplified level exaggerated his brush strokes. Viewing those heavy brush strokes and hues of color created a rawness to his artwork.
Van Gogh’s Works
Some of the standout pictures for me were his sunflowers which radiate happiness and sunshine. They reminded me of my trip to the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival, where thousands of sunflower faces surrounded me.
I particularly loved his paintings influenced by Japanese aesthetics, as they were simpler in design. Great examples included the Almond Blossoms, one in pastel blues and another in deep red tones. Of course, the highlight for many is the Starry Night, painted in 1889. The blue and yellow hues danced across the canvases allowing visitors to feel the energy of the night over the quiet town below.
His portraits are eye-catching and projected in their frames as if hung in an art gallery. However, Van Gogh’s self-portraits all have a sense of seriousness and sadness. The projections of his eyes tell a story of emptiness, exhaustion, and loneliness.
Other paintings to enjoy at the show:
- Grey self-portrait with Grey Felt Hat
- The Large Plane Trees
- Fishing Boats on the Beach
- The Yellow House
- Café Terrace at Night
- The Red Vineyard
- The Church at Auvers
- Portrait of Dr. Gachet
- Noon, Rest from Work
- Falling Autumn Leaves
- Wheat Fields with Crows
- The Plains at Auvers
Tips For Visiting Imagine Van Gogh
Remember, this exhibit differs significantly from your traditional art gallery. Regular galleries sometimes ban photography, and visitors must stand a certain distance from the artwork.
While I attended Imagine Van Gogh, similar shows also run in major cities in the United States. These include Immersive Van Gogh, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, Beyond Van Gogh, and Van Gogh Alive.
Should you choose to attend Imagine Van Gogh, here are some helpful tips:
- Book early because the event is popular.
- Arrive 15 minutes early, as suggested on your ticket. Should you arrive late, you may be denied entry to the exhibit.
- Tickets are CAD 10.00 cheaper Monday to Thursday.
- Children 3 yrs. and under are free but still require a ticket.
- The event is family-friendly.
- Guests may take as many photos as they like but without the use of a flash or tripod.
- The Vancouver Convention Centre offers a special parking rate of CAD 10.00 for three hours.
- No food or drinks are allowed inside the convention hall.
- Visitors should not touch the canvases. During my visit, two small children ran around the center canvases touching them. The canvases rippled, which distorted the projected images.
- Once you leave the exhibit room, there is no re-entry.
- Tickets are non-transferrable. Should you need to reschedule, you must do so at least 48 hrs before your time slot. A CAD 6.00 per ticket rescheduling fee will apply.
- Imagine Van Gogh is a cashless exhibit. Bring a debit or credit card should you want to purchase at the gift shop. Items include Van Gogh masks, figurines, cards, souvenir books, and more.
While I didn’t know what to expect before attending this exhibit, the Van Gogh immersive experience pleasantly surprised me. In reviewing the show, I wished there were photos and more information on his life.
In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork he painted in the last few years of his life. Since the images kept moving and incorporated the floor, it made the event more gratifying. If you’re a gallery-goer, be sure to see a Van Gogh immersive experience near you.
After Imagine Van Gogh closed, it was replaced with Imagine Picasso. During the pandemic, the world has learned to do things a little differently. These virtual art shows have allowed us to see world-famous works of art without travelling.
Happy travels ~ Karen