Art

The Definitive Van Gogh Experience Can Be Found at the Olympia Theater

Yes, another Van Gogh experience.
Yes, another Van Gogh experience. Photo courtesy of Exhibition Hub and Fever
click to enlarge Yes, another Van Gogh experience. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EXHIBITION HUB AND FEVER
Yes, another Van Gogh experience.
Photo courtesy of Exhibition Hub and Fever
Large sunflowers decorate the front entrance of the Olympia Theater in downtown Miami. Inside the historic venue, you'll find an enhanced exhibition surrounding the work of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.”

Sound familiar? That's because this is the second Van Gogh art experience to come to Miami in the past few months. The similarly named "Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience" is currently on view at the Ice Palace Studios. (Yet another Van Gogh show, "Van Gogh Alive," visited the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, from November 2020 until earlier this month.)

So is this just a trend curators are capitalizing on or does “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” offer something that sets it apart from its competitors?

“When you think of Van Gogh, you think of a person that painted for a very short time. In the course of nine years, he painted 900 paintings, over 1100 drawings,” says Mario Iacampo, CEO of Exhibition Hub, the producer behind the experience at the Olympia.
click to enlarge “When you think of Van Gogh, you think of a person that painted for a very short time," says Mario Iacampo, CEO of Exhibition Hub. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EXHIBITION HUB AND FEVER
“When you think of Van Gogh, you think of a person that painted for a very short time," says Mario Iacampo, CEO of Exhibition Hub.
Photo courtesy of Exhibition Hub and Fever
Exhibition Hub's show, which debuted in 2017, invites visitors to step into more than 300 of Van Gogh’s sketches, drawings, and paintings through the use of technology. And make no mistake: Exhibition Hub’s attention to detail, respect for the artist, and knowledgeable staff elevate this Van Gogh experience far above the rest.

The first part of this large exhibition focuses on the artist’s paintings and story. Re-creations of notable and obscure works alike line the walls as if at a gallery, accompanied by detailed descriptions and bio. Though it's not the same as seeing the master's originals in person, the viewer can get a feel for the work in its purest form before it's transformed into a 360 experience.

In the center of the “gallery rooms'' stands a massive sculpture of Van Gogh’s face with art projected upon it, hinting at what’s to come. A similar installation featuring an enormous flower vase can be seen in the adjacent room — Iacampo’s favorite aspect of the exhibition. Van Gogh's obsessive nature is evident in the flowers he repeatedly drew in different perspectives and moods, further highlighting his unique genius.
click to enlarge Exhibition Hub’s attention to detail, respect for the artist, and knowledgeable staff elevate this Van Gogh experience far above the rest. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EXHIBITION HUB AND FEVER
Exhibition Hub’s attention to detail, respect for the artist, and knowledgeable staff elevate this Van Gogh experience far above the rest.
Photo courtesy of Exhibition Hub and Fever
The first truly immersive aspect of the exhibit comes with a physical re-creation of Van Gogh’s iconic bedroom painting. Visitors can go inside, take pictures, and imagine they're living inside a masterpiece.

“I mean, he had this whole relationship with his brother with the letters,” Iacampo explains. “You know, he had this event with Gauguin. All of these things make for a very interesting story to tell over and above just talking about his paintings. So what we like to do at 'Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience’ is we try to create a whole exhibition. So you walk through the first part of the exhibition, and you learn a little bit about the artist. It’s important from the perspective of his life.”

Going through this part of the exhibition, one can't help but feel the impact of the complicated life of the artist, who was haunted by mental illness. Each painting, word, and projection is placed for a reason, creating a feeling of connection to Van Gogh that allows for a more emotional experience. Quotes are scribbled on the wall, and eventually, visitors are led to the most magical aspect of the exhibit: the 360-degree digital art experience. Accompanying the large projections is an orchestral score created specifically for the exhibition by Dutch composer Thomas Sohet. The music can be heard in every room, but it swells in the digital room.
click to enlarge The VR add-on allows viewers to explore Arles, France, the town in which Van Gogh created many of his works. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EXHIBITION HUB AND FEVER
The VR add-on allows viewers to explore Arles, France, the town in which Van Gogh created many of his works.
Photo courtesy of Exhibition Hub and Fever
Massive, floor-to-ceiling projections that tell the story of Van Gogh through his work stand on the Olympia stage. The 40-minute long loop takes the viewers through each phase of the artist’s short career, including the year he spent inside the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy.

In addition to the immersive room, a virtual-reality experience is available for a $5 upcharge. The VR add-on allows viewers to explore Arles, France, the town in which Van Gogh created many of his works, and see the surroundings that inspired him as an artist.

Regardless of how many similar experiences come and go, “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” warrants a visit. It is suitable for all ages (including children, thanks to a coloring station). The opportunity to more deeply understand the mind behind works of art like Starry Night and Sunflowers creates an inspiring experience that cannot be matched locally.

"Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience." Through August 29, at the Olympia Theater, 174 E. Flager St., Miami; vangoghexpo.com/miami. Tickets cost $34.90 to $54.50 via feverup.com.
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Ashley-Anna Aboreden is a Miami native and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She is an English graduate from FIU and is currently receiving her MFA in creative writing at the New School. She has an everlasting love for shih tzus (especially hers), chocolate chip cookies, and vintage books.