What's Up With All the Van Gogh Experiences Coming to Miami This Spring?

Miami has Van Gogh on the brain.
Miami has Van Gogh on the brain. Photo courtesy of Beyond Van Gogh
There's a good chance a poster of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night hung in your dorm room when you were in college. The masterpiece is among the most famous works ever created, right up there with the Mona Lisa and The Scream.

Whether he's remembered more for his prolific body of work or for the inner torment that drove him to mutilate his left ear and later to suicide, the worldwide fascination with the Dutch Post-Impressionist endures to this day. (This despite the fact that fame eluded Van Gogh before his death at age 37 in 1890.)

While you can see the swirling brushstrokes of The Starry Night in person at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — and some of his other well-known pieces in institutions in London, Switzerland, and at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam — lately, it seems his works are the inspiration for a new kind of art experience: the interactive exhibition.

Competing interactive — and similarly named — exhibits that touch on some of Van Gogh’s most famous works are coming to South Florida this spring.

Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience at Ice Palace Studios and Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at a yet-to-be-announced location may sound like the same show — but they’re not.

Beyond Van Gogh opens almost an entire month earlier, for starters, and the works are “freed from frames" — which is a nice way of saying that no real Van Gogh paintings will be present. Kicking off April 15, the exhibition was assembled by creative director Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at Montreal’s Normal Studio. It will feature more than 300 of Van Gogh’s artworks and promises to take visitors into a "three-dimensional world that exhilarates the senses."

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, presented by Fever and European entertainment producers Exhibition Hub, offers an added experience to the painter's works: virtual reality. In addition to digital projections, the VR headsets promise to fully immerse visitors into the paintings themselves as they become the eyes of Van Gogh. This show opens on May 8.

And for those willing to drive north, there's even a third option.

The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, is hosting a special exhibition, titled Van Gogh Alive. Developed by Australia's Grande Experiences, it opened in November and features more than 3,000 moving images projected in high-definition and synchronized to a classical score. Posts on social media indicate that many people believe this is the exhibit that's making its way down to South Florida, but it's not. The Dalí continues to host its show until June, and for now, at least, it's the only North American venue where you can see it.

Van Gogh Alive has been making its way around the world since 2011. “In a world of competition, of course, people will try to replicate,” Rob Kirk, head of traveling experiences at Grande Experiences, recently told the New York Times' Christina Morales. "It's flattering."

Meanwhile, back in South Florida, the dueling Immersive shows aren't the only virtual-reality Van Gogh set to appear in Miami in the weeks and months to come.

Lasting Impressions: The 3D LED Experience at the Adrienne Arsht Center promises to transport guests into more than 100 of the world’s most recognizable Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces via 3D/LED technology, projections, music, and lighting. Opening May 1 on the Arsht’s 18,000-square-foot stage, the show will feature works by Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, and others.

All these dueling Van Goghs (and, for the record, there's yet another, Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, which started out in Canada but will make its way to Boston late this year) are perhaps less a sign of the painter's enduring popularity (although that's certainly part of it) than a sign of the times. These shows seem more akin to the made-for-Instagram art experiences popularized by the Museum of Ice Cream than an actual comprehensive survey and study of Van Gogh's work. And the nature of the exhibitions seems tailor-made for the "New Normal," in which timed visits ensure safe social-distancing.

There's bound to be plenty of celestial swirls, but don't expect to come away with much insight into the man who created the originals.

"Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience." Opens Thursday, April 15, at Ice Palace Studios, 1400 N. Miami Ave., Miami; Tickets cost $30.99 to $93.99.

"Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience." Opens Saturday, May 8, at location TBA; Tickets cost $19.90 to $54.50.

"Lasting Impressions: The 3D LED Experience." Wednesday, May 19, through Wednesday, June 16, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-672; Tickets cost $44.10 to $89.25.
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Christine Borges