Sunday, November 14, 2021

What would Van Gogh have thought of it?

On Friday I went with the family to see the immersive Van Gogh exhibit in Denver. I had never heard of it but it has been shown all over the world and has been very popular. We were all looking forward to it and the girls were excited. They know some of Van Gogh’s paintings and they sing the Don McClean song that begins “Starry, Starry Night” along with Isaac. They know all the words. ‘Will we see Starry, starry night?’ asked Cece.

Like me, they thought we would be viewing some of Van Gogh’s paintings, along with projections of them onto the walls of rooms. 

There were no paintings. 

And extracts from some of them were not just projected onto all four walls of the otherwise blacked out ‘gallery,’ they were animated and there was a disturbing soundtrack added. It was spectacular and it was overwhelming, but there was no texture to the images, and that is a vital ingredient of Van Gogh’s work. 

One of the girls had to leave because the sensory overwhelm made her nauseous and upset. The other (who plays the ukelele and piano and writes her own songs) hated the music. She thought it inappropriate.

I was pleased to go and see what it was all about, but actually I am perfectly happy with the paintings (which I have seen in Amsterdam and was in awe of) and ultimately this show felt like a commercial exploitation of Van Gogh’s work. As such, it was upsetting. Surely the paintings speak for themselves. Why is there a need to do this to them? 

Isaac took some excellent photos and he’s happy for me share them with you. 

Have any of you seen this show? Note that I use the word ‘show’ and not ‘exhibition,’ or ‘exhibit’ as they say over here.

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac


Lois said...

So glad you made it to the States after the angst of the Verify app. Pleased to have your review of Live Van Gogh as it is on at Salford Quays this week and I suspected it wouldn't be my cup of tea! Have a lovely visit!

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you Lois.
Re the Van Gogh- I have been reading about the immersive experience on the net since Friday and have realised that it has many incarnations- some more static than the one we saw.

Anonymous said...

Delighted you are about and about in Denver and sharing it all with the family. The daughter took her 5 year Chloe to this show and they were both underwhelmed in various ways depending on their age and expectations. It was something special in a brief time of reduced lockdown last year so the daughter's hopes were high. I will share your story with her if I may

Anita said...

I saw the Van Gogh experience in a huge church in York during the Summer and it was brilliant. The experience obviously varies according to the venue. We were sitting in deckchairs in the centre of this very old church - High vaulted ceilings etc and the atmosphere of it all was quite special.

Christine said...

It'a horrible! xx

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments, especially about overwhelm - and can see it could upset those who are well acquainted with Van Gough’s work, but if this is a way to get those who have no experience of art in general and Van Gough in particular to engage, to look more closely at the “real thing” surely that would have accomplished something?

Love to all