Arts and Culture

It’s supposed to be like stepping into the middle of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. 

That’s how producers of “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” describe it. The traveling art show opens Wednesday in Louisville, and features projections of about 300 of his works, including his famous “Starry Night,” illuminating tens of thousands of square feet of exhibition space at the Kentucky International Convention Center. 

It’s one of dozens of traveling shows that immerses people in projections of a late famous artist’s work – The Lume at Newfields in Indianapolis recently opened the immersive exhibition “Monet & Friends Alive!” 

The show’s art historian and curator Fanny Curtat, said this exhibit has its own, distinct curatorial vision.

“In the art world, it’s actually not uncommon to have more than one exhibit on one artist, especially somebody as famous as Van Gogh… So it’s about picking and choosing the pieces and then the journey you want to take the audience on,” she said. 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer speaks with "Beyond Van Gogh" curator Fanny Curtat during a preview of the immersive art show at the Kentucky International Convention Center on July 5, 2020. The mayor proclaimed the show's opening day as "Beyond Van Gogh Day" in Louisville. Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer speaks with “Beyond Van Gogh” curator Fanny Curtat during a preview of the immersive art show at the Kentucky International Convention Center on July 5, 2020. The mayor proclaimed the show’s opening day as “Beyond Van Gogh Day” in Louisville.

“Beyond Van Gogh” focuses not on his legend as a tortured artist, but on his use of color and finding the joy in his work, she continued. 

“Vincent is known for the darkness in his life, for the ear cutting incident, for the struggling [and] poverty. And yet all that we see is the way that he transcended all of this pain into works of beauty and works of art… There’s something there that we can all be inspired from.”

The show was created by Montreal-based Normal Studio, and produced by a division of the Paquin Entertainment Group, which is also responsible for the touring “Beyond Monet,” “Marvel S.T.A.T.I.O.N” and “National Geographic’s Beyond King Tut” immersive experiences. 

“Beyond Van Gogh,” specifically, is divided into three galleries: the first maps out details of his life and culminates in the main exhibition space, which plays a 35-minute loop of his work accompanied by a musical score. 

Curtat told WFPL News they began developing the show in October of 2020, and it launched in spring 2021. It’s not intended to be a replacement for seeing van Gogh’s actual paintings, she said.  

“There’s nothing like the magic of an original. There’s nothing like the aura of an original,” she said. “I think what this does, it breaks a lot of the image sometimes people have of a museum, which can be intimidating. Also, it’s hard to see how a 19th century artist relates to their 21st century day-to-day experience, so a project like that just helped bridge that gap.”

"Beyond Van Gogh" runs in Louisville July 6 - Sept. 3, 2022.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

“Beyond Van Gogh” runs in Louisville July 6 – Sept. 3, 2022.

Curtat added that she feels these kinds of shows can also be a good experience for kids, who “get to run around, they get to twirl” without fear of knocking into an expensive work of art. 

“Beyond Van Gogh” is on view in Louisville through Sept. 3.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.