Art brought to life: Take a peek inside Pensacola's Beyond Van Gogh experience (2024)

Brittany MisencikPensacola News Journal

Building 6 of Pensacola’s Interstate Fairgrounds is no longer a wide-open canvas, but home of the acclaimed 30,000-square-foot immersive art exhibit Beyond Van Gogh until Sept. 9.

The exhibit provides a new way to experience the life of troubled post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh through stepping into 300 interactive pieces of his work.

By incorporating both still and moving images and a room with 360 degrees of video walls depicting the artist's famous works almost-hypnotically appearing and blending into each other, the exhibit can feel alive to visitors thanks to the way it manipulates their senses.

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Typically, Van Gogh is best known for two things: chopping off his own ear and his masterpiece "The Starry Night," which was painted from inside of his asylum room at Saint-Remy-de-Provence in France near the end of his life.

Despite Van Gogh's troubles, art historian Fanny Curtat, of the Paquin Entertainment Group that brought the exhibit to Pensacola, said that his ability to see beauty and light through mental darkness was part of what made him so remarkable.

“I don't think I've ever met an art historian who specializes in Van Gogh who doesn't get teary eyed talking about him at some point,” Curtat told the News Journal at the exhibit Monday morning. “He (Van Gogh) is somebody who is, of course, incredibly talented, and yet who is fighting his own demons, who has his own things that he has to overcome. And we can all relate to that; we can all relate to this mix of confidence and self-doubt.

“He was known for fighting his demons, but it's a little bit sad that people sort of remember only him for his demons, where all his work is about finding ways to fight them and overcome the darkness in his life. And we can all relate to the tools and solutions that he found,” Curtat continued. “It's about appreciating the healing qualities of nature, the power of art, the power of color. It's about communicating what you feel, what you perceive. It's about appreciating the ordinary things for the extraordinary beauty that they hold. There's a lot there that can still be very valuable for a 21st century audience.”

Since Pensacola’s production debuted Aug. 5, people of all ages have basked in the “light” of Van Gogh’s artwork recreated with the help of 4 trillion content pixels.

If you can resist the urge to snap a selfie between each changing screen, you’ll notice the subtleties in each changing frame, like drifting clouds on the seascape and blinking eyes in the portraits.

Some waterfront scenes will spill off the screen and submerge your ankles on the floor display, and flower petals will float in your hair straight off the canvas of "Almond Blossom" due to the multidimensional projection technology.

“Anything that had the floor moving,” Sarah Sellers said was her 17-month-old son’s favorite part of the exhibit.

A toddler in light-up sneakers danced on Van Gogh’s sunflowers as they sprang up in all directions. Seasons changed in Van Gogh’s paintings to the sound of “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, and night fell just in time for the crowd-pleasing painting, "The Starry Night."

It was the painting that most everyone in the room knew and the one that no one could stop watching.

The cyclone-like spiral brushstrokes wrapped around chair legs and ankles of those on the observation room. Golden paint smudges are placeholders for what will become the stars and the sun in the scene, and the sharp blues are mellowed with calm, creamy whites.

For visitors like Alabama artist Kimberly Russell — the beauty of Van Gogh's work was in his perception.

“More than likely, I was the only one standing in there that actually had tears in their eyes watching it all,” Russell said. “It's one of those things where you're either moved by what you see, or you're not.”

Van Gogh painted what he felt – regardless of whether others saw it the way he did – and expressed his emotions on his canvas, Russell said.

"You can see it in his brushstrokes, you can feel that. That little quick motion that he obviously used time and time again, he could feel it just trying to come out of him and he was just going about it in the quickest and most efficient way that he could possibly get,” Russell said. “(The paintings in the exhibit) were blown up to such a degree that it's like you can actually see where he was painting with such vigor and just trying to, like I said before, get it out, where he would actually miss. And you could actually see the canvas beneath the painting itself, where he would miss spots completely. Most anybody else I don't think would do that.”

Curtat, who has studied Van Gogh’s work closely, also said that the large scale of the Beyond Van Gogh experience provides viewers with the art in an entirely new light. There are no limits when it comes to doing the same with more artists in the future.

“For lot of people, museums can be intimidating. For a lot of people, it might be hard to relate and see what a 19th century artist has to bring to their lives. Maybe an experience like this feels more accessible and through this connection that they will have developed with Vincent, they'll be curious about seeing the real thing if they have a chance,” Curtat said. “It's about adding to the way we experience art, adding to the way we access the art world. Not taking anything away from it … hopefully it does that for many more artists and helps connect the dots between art audiences, between art institutions and between the public.”

Ready to see it for yourself?

The exhibit runs from Aug. 5 through Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday or 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Pensacola Interstate Fair, Building 6, 6655 Mobile Highway. There will be a cashless gift shop available for souvenir purchases as well.

Tickets must be purchased to attend the hour-long tour of the exhibit, ranging from $49.99 to $89.99 depending on the kind of perks you include. Tickets for children ages five to 15-years-old cost $28.99 and children under five can get in free. Music played in the exhibit can be found in their Spotify playlist at any time.

If you are late for the time on your ticket, staff for the exhibit cannot guarantee they will be able to accommodate you and refunds are not issued.

You can get more information at the exhibit's website

PNJ reporter Eddie Bunch contributed to this story.

Art brought to life: Take a peek inside Pensacola's Beyond Van Gogh experience (2024)


What is beyond Van Gogh about? ›

While journeying through Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, guests are transported through history learning Van Gogh's background while witnessing hundreds of iconic masterpieces, including instantly-recognizable classics “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “Café Terrace at Night,” as well as many revealing ...

What is the meaning behind Van Gogh's paintings? ›

Van Gogh experienced life and the world intensely and wanted his art to portray the great themes of life, such as hope, love, anxiety and suffering.

What is the meaning behind Van Gogh's self-portrait? ›

This self-portrait is a poignant manifestation of van Gogh's profound introspection, offering an unfiltered glimpse into his emotional turmoil. In the painting, the artist presents himself with an almost unsettling intensity.

How did Van Gogh's life affect his art? ›

Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent van Gogh

He was influenced by a number of factors, such as the academies he stayed in, the painters he stayed in touch with, and the sceneries he observed. He loved working outside, and he even eventually wanted to develop an artist community at his Yellow House in Arles.

Does Van Gogh have ADHD? ›

Experts have also speculated that the iconic painters Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Vincent Van Gogh may also have had ADHD.

Was Van Gogh in love with? ›

Although Vincent fell in love several times, he only ever lived with one woman. Sien Hoornik, whom he met in The Hague, was working as a prostitute when Van Gogh approached her to model for his drawings. They quickly developed a relationship.

Why is Van Gogh's art so special? ›

During his 10-year artistic career, Vincent van Gogh created a vivid personal style, noted for its striking colour, emphatic brushwork, and contoured forms. His achievement is all the more remarkable for the brevity of his career and considering the poverty and mental illness that dogged him.

What did Vincent van Gogh say about his art? ›

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” “I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.” “I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”

Where is Van Gogh buried? ›

Vincent Van Gogh is buried next to his brother Theo in the cemetery at Auvers-sur-Oise. It is adjacent to the wheat fields he painted just before his death at 37.

What did Vincent van Gogh think of himself? ›

In fact, van Gogh considered himself and many of his paintings to be failures, and it's rumored that he only ever sold one painting in his lifetime. If only we could go back in time and show him how well-loved he would be over 150 years on.

How much is Starry Night worth? ›

Van Gogh produced numerous artworks during his lifetime, and each bears an unforgettable uniqueness. He has created some of the most recognizable pieces in art history, including the iconic The Starry Night (1889), estimated at between $70 million to $100 million.

What is Van Gogh's cause of death? ›

On 27 July 1890, in a field near Auvers, Vincent shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died two days later, with his brother Theo at his bedside.

What lessons can we learn from Van Gogh's life? ›

Not Giving Into Dejection

Van Gogh was a tortured soul, far more than most people. Despite his insecurities, he painted – and the more he painted, the better he felt. The lesson here: do it for yourself. Worry not what others think.

Why was Van Gogh's life tragic? ›

Van Gogh's struggles with mental illness were only compounded by his financial difficulties. He was unable to make a living from his art, and was forced to rely on the support of his brother, Theo. This reliance on his brother put a strain on their relationship, and Van Gogh often felt guilty for being a burden.

What is the difference between Van Gogh and Beyond Van Gogh immersive experience? ›

Immersive Van Gogh uses 100 projectors to cover more than 500,000 cubic feet, features experimental electronic music, and offers visitors an hourlong experience. Beyond Van Gogh, meanwhile, is the brainchild of Mathieu St-Arnaud and Montreal's Normal Studio.

What are the rules for Beyond Van Gogh? ›

The following items are not permitted in the exhibition at any time:
  • Backpacks and duffle bags.
  • Paints and aerosols.
  • Indelible markers.
  • Weapons of any type.
  • Outside beverages (including alcohol)
  • Food of any type is not permitted in the exhibition.
  • Any item deemed by Exhibition Security to be inappropriate.

What is the immersive Van Gogh exhibit about? ›

The "Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit", designed by Massimiliano Siccardi, is adapted for each space it is exhibited in. The show tells van Gogh's story with a loose stream of consciousness, using large images and animations to demonstrate what "flashed before his eyes" before the artist died.

What to expect at Van Gogh's immersive experience? ›

The sound and light show lasts 35 minutes and runs on a loop with no beginning or end. Extra rooms: There is a dedicated space for digital art study of the flowers painted by Van Gogh. We invite the visitor as well to watch a 5-minute documentary that provides insight into Van Gogh's painting techniques.

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