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