Van Gogh Exhibit Shines Brightly in New York

Immersive Van Gogh gives New Yorkers an inside look at the famous artist.

With the Governor and Mayor giving all indications of allowing a New York rebirth after a grueling fourteen months of Covid, what better way to attract patrons back to the arts than a brilliant exhibition of the famous Dutch painter opening for previews at Pier 36 on June 4th? Immersive Van Gogh invites audiences to “step inside” the iconic works of post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh, evoking his highly emotional and chaotic inner consciousness through art, light, music, movement and imagination. The gallery space at 299 South Street offers patrons more than 500,000 cubic feet of animated projections. Renowned Creative Director Korins will create a custom design to fit the architecture of the exhibition’s New York home, adding elements to the gallery space as well as adjacent auxiliary elements. Korins will create numerous New York-specific installations, viewing platforms and high-tech, experiential and interactive elements previously unseen in any other venue.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh was born in 1853 and died 1890, the victim of an apparent suicide. Along with Paul Gaugin he is considered one of the greatest of the Post Impressionists and the story of his life has been captured in books, movies, songs and even opera. Like many artists his painting became more popular after his death but few have achieved the fame and notoriety of the tortured Dutch painter. Van Gogh’s art became astoundingly popular after his death, especially in the late 20th century, when his work sold for record-breaking sums at auctions around the world and was featured in blockbuster touring exhibitions. In part because of his extensive published letters, van Gogh has also been mythologized in the popular imagination as the quintessential tortured artist.

In his time van Gogh painted more than 2,000 artworks ranging from ordinary household items and self-portraits to surreal landscapes. This output is even more remarkable when you consider that the vast majority of it was done in ten years, from 1880 to 1890. He was a painter whose work — notable for its beauty, emotion and color — highly influenced expressionism in 20th-century art but in his own time he lived in poverty and squalor, suffering ill health and depression. In his 37 years, Van Gogh only sold one painting, The Red Vineyards, to his brother Theo. He struggled with mental illness and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life. He was tragically admitted to a psychiatric hospital after allegedly offering his severed ear to a woman at a local brothel.

The story of van Gogh’s famous missing ear is in some dispute, however. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: “Disaster struck on Christmas Eve, 1888. Physically and emotionally exhausted, van Gogh snapped under the strain. He argued with Gauguin and, reportedly, chased him with a razor and cut off the lower half of his own left ear. A sensational news story reported that a deranged van Gogh then visited a brothel near his home and delivered the bloody body part to a woman named Rachel, telling her, “Guard this object carefully.” The 21st-century art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, however, examined contemporary police records and the artists’ correspondence and concluded, in Van Gogh’s Ohr: Paul Gaugin und der Pakt des Schweigens (2008; “Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence”), that it was actually Gauguin who mutilated van Gogh’s ear and that he did so with a sword. Whatever transpired, van Gogh took responsibility and was hospitalized; Gauguin left for Paris.” In 1890, van Gogh reportedly shot himself in the chest with a pistol.

With approximately 100 state-of-the-art projectors illuminating over the exhibit space, visitors to Immersive Van Gogh will be encircled from head-to-toe in van Gogh’s brushstrokes and colors, including animated details from works such as Self Portrait with Felt Hat (1888), The Bed-room in Arles (1889), Irises (1889) and The Starry Night (1889). The walk-through installation has been designed with health and safety as a priority. Admissions will be limited according to New York City’s capacity guidelines with touchless ticket-taking; temperature checks upon arrival; hand sanitizer stations and social distancing markers prominent throughout the venue; and digitally projected social distancing circles on the gallery floors to ensure appropriate spacing. All guests must wear a face covering at all times during their visit to Immersive Van Gogh. The exhibit opens for previews June 4th and officially opens June 10th.

All photos courtesy of Michael Brosilow.

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