The gene for art—both expressive and receptive—seems to be absent from my DNA.  I can’t sketch or paint or sculpt.  Only my youngest students, full of youthful naiveté, compliment my whiteboard drawings—hastily drawn amorphous blobs that I try to pass off as living creatures.  But among the adults in my world, it’s agreed that even my stick people are an insult to stick people.  

A Minneapolis bridge painted in the venue’s foyer.

Similarly, I’m not much of an art appreciator.  I may visit an art museum here and there while traveling, but I have no art history background to draw from. (I seem to be better at puns than art.)  I’ve visited the D’Orsay and the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi in Florence, the Prado in Madrid, and the National Portrait Gallery in London, among others.  I’ve enjoyed them all (to varying degrees), but my stamina is low and I can get arted out very quickly.

Having a Van Gogh moment in rural France.

And yet, while in Amsterdam for several days with my mom ahead of our Viking® River Cruise, I knew I wanted to explore the Van Gogh Museum.  As long as I experience art museums in manageable chunks, I do ok, and it ended up being a great way to pass a few hours.

Read more: Is a Viking® River Cruise Right For You?

Outside the Rijksmuseum, just a five minute walk from the Van Gogh Museum. These letters were permanently removed by the city council in 2018 for promoting individualism (in lieu of diversity, tolerance, and solidarity) and encouraging overtourism . Oh, and for being an obnoxious selfie/Instagram spot.

In light of that successful and enjoyable visit, when I became aware that an interactive art exhibit called Immersive Van Gogh would be taking place in Minneapolis, I bought tickets without hesitation.

Not an actual lighthouse

When our Day of Culture arrived, we entered a capacious room where Van Gogh’s paintings were projected on every wall.  Central pillars were mirrored, ensuring we didn’t miss a single pixel no matter which direction we were facing.

As we stood watching, each post-Impressionistic* work remained stationary for just a few moments before bleeding, exploding, or wafting like smoke into another work. Often, backgrounds remained static while individual elements, as if peeled from the canvas, moved dynamically: The sun drifted across the sky.  Trees blossomed.  Candles flickered and died. Windmill blades turned forlornly. Flowers bloomed in scattered patches before swallowing the entire wall.

*While editing this post, the husband—insufferable art snob that he can sometimes be—accused me of having to look up this genre before adding it in.  Busted.

The technology was reminiscent of early, rudimentary attempts at animation. Were we to watch the Simpsons or a Peanuts cartoon in such a way it would seem hopelessly old school, but here it was mesmerizing.

The many faces, the many moods, of VVG.

A second room resembled the first in every way but one: here the floor was involved.

Glad I wore decent shoes

What really tipped this whole art experience over the edge from great to magical was the addition of audio. A continuous stream of curated instrumental music—usually classical or new age—filled the rooms, making it a multisensory event.  (To get a sense of this, hum the first movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3—or click that link—as you scroll through the next several pictures.)

This, I realized, is what all art museums should present: auditory and visual masterpieces co-mingling harmoniously.

The piece de resistance, at least for us, was seeing Cafe Terrace at Night.

Paying homage to the troubled genius in our own home.

The exhibition was on the spendy side ($130 for two tickets, including taxes and those inescapable, mysterious “fees”), but I have no regrets. If you live near—or have plans to visit—one of the many cities where Immersive Van Gogh is showing . . .

. . .  I wouldn’t just suggest a visit.  I would tell you that you must Van GO!

Note: All these uncompensated opinions are my own, and if the exhibit overlords don’t like them, they can Van Gogh to hell! 😉

25 thoughts

  1. Wow, what a creative way to experience Van Gogh’s paintings, almost like stepping into one. As I haven’t visited any art exhibitions for two years, this would be an indulgent way to dive back into the artsy scene. Thanks for sharing, and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  2. Sound interesting. At first I was thinking, as you described, that it looks a bit old school and possibly cheesy. But as I read I got mesmerized. Now I want to see it too. I am also as non-artistic as you and like a good painting but don’t know the style or techniques. Maggie

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  3. Artist or not (and I can say that I’m not good at art, either), one doesn’t need to be in order to appreciate it. I’m a massive fan of van Gogh and have visited a few of his spots in Amsterdam, Arles, and Auvers-sur-Oise to get a better understanding of his short, but fascinating life. There was a van Gogh light exhibition in Paris two years ago which was incredible, and I’m glad you experienced it closer to home!

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  4. When you get back to France, take your bikes and ride around Auvers sur Oise (I think that is how it it spelled) where Vincent lived and painted prolifically. As you ride around you can see his paintings juxtaposed (I don’t get to use that word very much!) with the actual landscape. It is really special.

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  5. I looked into it some time ago to see if the exhibit would be in Raleigh but the closest was Charlotte. It does look interesting but I’m not willing to drive almost 3 hours to get there. I’m glad you got to enjoy it!


  6. My appreciation of art museums is much like yours. I’m good for a couple of hours, but then I must move on. I enjoy seeing the art, but don’t quiz me about it later. My appreciation is lowbrow. I’d love to see Immersive Van Gogh. There’s a Dr. Who episode about Van Gogh that has piqued my interest in him

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  7. My golly, I totally enjoyed this post, especially the wonderful pics you took. I too don’t really have artsy bones in my body, so I can’t draw nor appreciate art, but this installation looks like a solid place to go, or perhaps you’ve presented it in a way that has piqued my interest. Too bad I’m not in that part of the world, eh?

    Anyway, I have now connected you to David Sedaris in my mind, since the author had used one of Van Gogh’s paintings as his book cover. Don’t ask my how my mind works.

    Thanks for this wonderful post!

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