The Van Gogh Immersion on South Street

Posted on: June 9th, 2021 at 5:00 am by

When I was fifteen, I was flipping through posters in my local music store at the mall, and I paused on a print of the most vibrant blues and yellows – a swirling night sky. It hit me – I didn’t know anything about art, the painting, or the painter, but I knew I was completely in love with it. Yes, I fell for one of the world’s most famous painters, not while strolling the halls of the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, but while standing in the middle of a Newbury Comics across from the food court.

Since that fateful day, I’ve learned a bit more about Van Gogh; I tried to branch out and like some of his other paintings other than “Starry Night” – the flowers, the fields – they’re all beautiful and amazing in their own ways. My efforts were in vain – you never really forget that first love, do you?

But art can be hard. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes it causes impatience – especially when you visit a museum, and the sheer volume of things you’d like to see or should see begins to take its toll. Sometimes you don’t want to wait in a queue just to check out the Mona Lisa for two minutes. You do it, but you don’t necessarily want to.

The beauty of “The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit” at Pier 36 is that it alleviates a lot of the pressure found in a typical museum or gallery experience. It’s incredibly accessible for the casual “Oh! I like Van Gogh!” person. And it’s something that will stay with you, even if you can’t describe why.

While there’s a lot to see and hear, it’s not overwhelming – the program lasts roughly forty-five minutes. Being immersive, you can stand pretty much anywhere, sit on the ground, wander from room to room – there’s no sense of urgency to move along during the show.

Italy’s Massimiliano Siccardi is the mastermind behind the immersive experience. He’s been creating these for over 30 years, and it shows; great care has been taken to transport the viewer through a variety of famous works, and some lesser knowns. The landscape animations that he’s incorporated are stunning – at times you feel like you’re in the middle of a large scale optical illusion. Stars pulse in and out of the darkness, roots grow into irises, colors explode into focus. A few of the animations are a bit weird to take in – the people depicted often look a little melty, and therefore eerie, with their slow motion movements.

The soundtrack is another gem of the exhibit. Luca Longobardi chose a mix of current and classic tracks to coincide with the displays, and they are brilliant selections. In particular, the way Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition lines up with the art was true perfection.

There are lots of mirrors and installations, which reflect the digital images in such a way that you really see Van Gogh’s classic paintings anew. It’s certainly an accommodating exhibit for the Instagram obsessed, but it’s hard to fault anyone for wanting to take a bunch of pictures, as it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

The only thing that seemed to be a slight distraction from the experience were a few kids running around and climbing on the installations. Granted, the placements have a fun house feel and look like mini mirrored mountains, but security might need to tighten up a bit.

Immersive Van Gogh opens tomorrow at Pier 36 (299 South Street). More info here.

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