What is behind the immersive exhibits sweeping the country

(ABC4) – You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t received an ad for an immersive Van Gogh experience in the past six months. Whether through billboard, Instagram ad, or just word of mouth, it seems almost everyone has heard of the event. Now that Van Gogh’s Immersive Experiences have opened in most major US cities, it’s safe to say that the art exhibit part, tech show part, photo op part is taking the country by storm.

Salt Lake City is home to its own iteration, called Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Hosted by Atmosphere Studios, a Salt Lake-based marketing company specializing in creating 3D environments, the event is open now and runs until December 31.

As to why Van Gogh is so popular right now, Christine McCallum, operations manager at Atmosphere Studios, says it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact cause.

This just might be a perfect storm for several reasons. McCallum says that an inherent fascination with Van Gogh is combined with an audience’s desire for a memorable experience, creating public curiosity around the exhibit.

Since opening in early October, McCallum and the team behind the event have been inundated with inquiries about Beyond Van Gogh.

“People are always trying to figure out, ‘What is this thing? ” “, she says. “And invariably, we can’t do a very good job of helping them fully understand it unless they come to see it. People are so eager to have an experience that they are willing to spend that money and go downhill even if they don’t really know what they are being promised.

In addition to an air of mystery surrounding the nature of the event, McCallum also believes that another reason Van Gogh’s work is experiencing a renaissance is due to society’s growing awareness of mental health issues. . She gives credit to celebrities like Simone Biles who have spoken out about their mental health for bringing the issue to the public eye. And while the exhibit doesn’t blatantly discuss Van Gogh’s struggles, McCallum believes audiences are making a connection.

“We look back and the archetypal examples of fighting mental health are coming back into mainstream consciousness,” she says. “It is by the nature of Van Gogh’s character and his life story that you cannot tell this story without it being part of it.”

Another reason for Van Gogh’s sudden immersion is simply that the painter’s art is in the public domain, so it is possible to use the art without exorbitant license fees.

“There are a lot of young artists who like technological mediums,” says McCallum. “They are interested in images as compelling as ‘Starry Night’, so they use it as a tool to really express their exploration of technological and artistic expression. “

But whether the reason is the lack of regulation around Van Gogh’s art, increased attention to sanity, or a desire to experience art in a new way, it seems to work.

Since setting Beyond Van Gogh, McCallum says Atmosphere Studios has received increased attention from other artists, licensing agents, and creatives when it comes to creating similar experiences with their work.

“I know heaps and heaps of artists are eager to create additional experiential artistic expressions for the Salt Lake community,” she says.

While certainly one of the most discussed exhibitions, Van Gogh’s immersive exhibitions were not the first of these types of experiential art events. Several years ago, photo-centric exhibitions like the Museum of Ice Cream, Color Factory, and even the Dreamscapes Museum in Utah took off and gained wide recognition on social media. Even before the pandemic, places like the Wisdome in Los Angeles were creating experiences using a combination of projections, installations and virtual reality.

According to McCallum, these types of events were a precursor to immersive experiences like Beyond Van Gogh.

“I think it’s just a natural development that takes a parallel course to the way the world is developing,” she says. “For a little while, virtual reality was really starting to gain traction in terms of marketing and experiential and immersive art. But there is still a price barrier to having this equipment available privately and COVID has really hurt VR in a public setting because no one wants to put glasses on their face that someone else is coming. to remove. “

Beyond Van Gogh took what virtual reality and experiential exhibits started before the pandemic and worked with it.

Van Gogh I just said let’s make this whole room look like VR, but without the VR glasses, ”McCallum said.

And it looks like the exhibit won’t be unique either. The Leonardo Science and Art Museum in Salt Lake opened an immersion From Monet to Kandinsky exhibition in early November, and McCallum expects more venues, artists and promoters to follow.

“When you create an experience for a person, it creates a memory,” she says. “I think there is a tendency of 12 to 15 year olds to create experiences that is culminating in all of this experiential art expression right now.”

And all these new memories being created also attract new audiences – and give them an accessible starting point in the art world.

McCallum says that if the exhibit lacked an immersive element, she wouldn’t have expected the success they saw. The nature of the experience – movement, music, and interactive nature – helps foster an accessibility that can be difficult to cultivate in the art world.

“All those young children who come with their families to this exhibit will have – for the rest of their lives, if they take an art history class or if they go to a museum and see anything of Van Gogh – connection that will always be there, ”she said.

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