Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, uses groundbreaking projection technology to engage viewers, making them feel as if they’ve stepped inside the renowned artist’s paintings. 

Fanny Curtat, an art historian, was selected to join the creative team of designers in order to link the traditional aspects of the project to the projection technology.

“​​It was going beyond the image, beyond the frame, beyond the lens,” Curtat says . 

She says they chose to feature Vincent Van Gogh because of his relevance to a 21st century audience and his “timeless quality.” 

Curtat says that a 21st century audience faces the adversity of a global pandemic, forcing many to remain isolated from the world of art. Van Gogh’s art is an inspiration to those facing isolation because even through his darkest days, he was still able to create world-renowned art, such as his famous The Starry Night that he painted looking through the iron-barred window of his asylum room. 

“There’s still something very inspiring about somebody who went through a lot of hardship, and yet managed to transform all of it into works of beauty [and] works of art,” says Curtat. 

Beyond Van Gogh was created at Montreal’s Normal Studio by Creative Director Mathieu St-Arnaud and his creative team. The exhibit opened in Calgary on Oct. 23 at the BMO Centre in Stampede Park. In all, the exhibit will travel more than 25 cities in Canada, the U.S., Puerto Rico and Chile.

The main goal for the exhibit was to create an experience for individuals to get their foot in the door of the world of art, Curtat says. By creating different ways of displaying masterpieces, it allows viewers to become immersed in the artwork, creating a deeper connection and richer experience. 

Curtat says, “You can’t replace the aura of an original,” however her hope was to take the intimidation out of historical art and museums by creating a bridge between the original art and the viewer’s new personal connection to it. 

As a viewer enters the exhibit, they are instantly greeted by the words of Van Gogh. As the audience walks through the artist’s life, they are able to read visually-displayed letters to his brother, famous quotes and learn more about his life beyond his art. 

“There’s still something very inspiring about somebody who went through a lot of hardship, and yet managed to transform all of it into works of beauty [and] works of art”

Fanny Curtat

The second room features a light show of colours melting off the wall and flowing beneath the audience’s feet, while creating abstract images of Van Gogh himself. 

The final room operates on a 35-minute time loop partnered with music to match the theme of the art appearing. The display begins with pencil drawings and sketches connecting to how Van Gogh started his vocation. The room then proceeds with each different stage of Van Gogh’s art.

Famous paintings transform the room and make viewers feel as if they’re enjoying a coffee at the Café Terrace at Night or like they’re sitting beneath an almond blossom tree watching the petals float away. Viewers meet Van Gogh face-to-face when his self-portraits appear with blinking eyes and bright colours. 

Curtat says the enchanting experience makes viewers feel as if they’re entering another artist’s vision of the world.

The exhibit runs until the end of the month and tickets can be purchased here.

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Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.