Arts

Two (Yes, Two) Immersive Van Gogh Exhibitions Are Coming to Boston

Both of the surprisingly similar digital experiences promise the “unique” feeling of stepping into one of the painter’s famous works.


Van Gogh Exhibitions in Boston

Photos via Imagine Van Gogh and Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, we’re all feeling a bit deprived of in-person entertainment. With the vaccine rollout, the world is starting to tentatively open its doors—and even concerts are on the horizon. For the arts community, the end of virtual museum visits and Zoom events is slowly inching closer.

But what’s the most popular way to jumpstart the rejuvenation of arts and culture in Boston? Apparently, it’s mega-size versions of Vincent Van Gogh paintings.

In the coming year, not one, but two immersive Van Gogh exhibitions will be coming to the city. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience and Imagine Van Gogh will both open in Boston in 2021, the first in September and the second in December.

Touting itself as the “original” immersive Van Gogh exhibition is Imagine Van Gogh (although who would’ve thought there could be more than one?). The exhibition first opened in France and has been touring around Canada to sold-out audiences for the past year. Starting December 21, around 24,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling screens will fill the iconic SoWa Power Station in the South End. More than 200 of Van Gogh’s works will be displayed in “Image Totale,” or projected onto the screens in extreme closeup, giving viewers a new perspective on the Dutch painter’s most famous pieces.

Imagine Van Gogh Exhibit in Bostonion in Boston

Photo via Imagine Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” “Irises and Sunflowers,” “Bedroom in Arles,” and more will be fragmented, animated, and magnified in the warehouse-size space. The goal is to create the feeling of being transported into the paintings. Needless to say, “The Starry Night” at 7 meters tall offers a slightly different viewing than its original 70-centimeter counterpart.

While Imagine Van Gogh boasts its artistic directors’ backgrounds at the Cathédrale d’Images in France, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience can tout its greater access, with over a dozen iterations of the same exhibit around the world.

The Immersive Experience is also playing things a bit more mysteriously—tickets are on sale, but its location is currently a secret. It will be somewhere in the vicinity of Boston, and a representative says the venue will be announced “in the coming weeks.” Come September, just hope it’s not too much of a headache to get to (or even worse, somewhere outside of the city).

Wherever the location may be, in this iteration, Van Gogh’s pieces will come to life in 360-degree, two-story projections on over 20,000 square feet of space. But the paintings won’t remain static. Branches and vines from “Almond Blossoms” will grow seemingly out of nowhere and appear to rustle in an unfelt breeze. Crows from “Wheatfield with Crows” will fly across the walls. And “Starry Night over the Rhone” will flicker across larger-than-life screens.

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Photo via Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Another section of The Immersive Experience offers a one-of-a-kind virtual reality interactive. A ten-minute journey titled “A Day in the Life of the Artist” takes you through the inspirations behind eight of Van Gogh’s most well-known paintings. While wearing VR goggles, you’ll be transported directly into the pieces and see through the eyes of Van Gogh.

If you’re still a little confused as to why Van Gogh is suddenly so popular, so are we. Even Redditors are trying to figure it out. But it seems that the arts community recognized our pandemic-induced entertainment deprivation and gifted us two exhibitions to quell our complaints. Yes, larger-than-life versions of famous paintings are interesting enough, and they’ll quite literally envelop us in the art we’ve been craving. But why so much Van Gogh?

Although we may never know the answer, tickets for both events are now on sale—if you can decide which one of these oddly similar and niche exhibitions to attend.

Some more information:

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

WHEN: September 2021

TIMES: Monday, Wednesday to Friday: 10am–8pm; Saturday to Sunday & holidays: 9am–9pm

WHERE: A secret location, soon to be announced

TICKETS: vangoghexpo.com

PRICING: Adult: $36, Child: $19.90

Imagine Van Gogh

WHEN: December 21, 2021 to February 22, 2022

TIMES: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 9pm

WHERE: SoWa Power Plant, 550 Harrison Ave., Boston

TICKETS: imagine-vangogh.com

PRICING: Adult: $39.99–$49.99, Child: $34.99–$44.99