Immersive exhibit brings Van Gogh to life in Toronto

Exhibit combines fine arts with cinema

Step inside the works of Van Gogh.
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With Toronto in phase three of reopening, the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit offers a breathtaking new approach to the painter’s famous works. 
 
The exhibit is located at 1 Yonge Street, along Toronto’s industrial waterfront. As visitors enter, they walk down a dark corridor that leads into a large room which, aside from a few fellow visitors and the odd bench, is completely empty. 
 
Here, attendants are transported into the works of Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch painter who lived from 1853 to 1890. During his lifetime, Van Gogh contributed greatly to post-Impressionism, an art movement centred on abstract and symbolic images rather than realistic depictions of life. He created several paintings ranging from somber scenes depicting rural life to vibrantly coloured florals, as well as a number of self-portraits.
 
The paintings are projected onto both the walls and the floor at an impressive scale. Visitors, who stand in socially-distanced circles on the floor, look onto the walls of the room as several of Van Gogh’s works appear, showing off his every brush stroke in a level of detail never seen before. 
 
The exhibit features famous works, including Sunflowers (1888), Starry Night (1889), and several of Van Gogh’s self-portraits. Select paintings have been partially animated, whether that be flowers lightly rustling in the wind or starlight shimmering over the waves—where Van Gogh’s work suggested movement, here it is brought to life.
 
In typical art galleries, the works themselves remain stationary while visitors wander through the exhibit, spending as much time with each work as they like. Visitors of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, by contrast, are stationary while living artworks move around them. 
 
Although tickets are sold in time slots and viewers are given one hour to view the exhibit, the pace doesn’t feel rushed. Instead, the exhibit engulfs viewers into a tightly-composed narrative of Van Gogh’s works. 
 
An accompanying soundtrack allows visitors to further engage themselves. Beginning with a chilling introduction and flowing into peaceful, scenic melodies and operatic vocals, the score of the exhibit brings further dimension to Van Gogh’s works. The music creates feelings of fear and joy—a bizarre yet intriguing juxtaposition of peace and chaos.  
 
The animation of each work allows them to seamlessly blend together. When combined with the soundtrack, the exhibition has a cinematic feel, which contributes to an overall cohesive narrative. The score combined with the varying pace of images directs the viewer to a powerful emotional response to each painting. 
 
In a period when several museums have taken to creating virtual exhibits to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit offers a dynamic alternative to viewing art safely. Despite its industrial setting, it creates a new environment to view art in ways that neither virtual nor traditional museums could. 

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