Van Gogh, the Brand: Pictures at an Exhibition
I love technology; I love New York; I love art museums; I love taking photos; I love date night.
So I eagerly purchased tickets to attend one of the various “immersive Van Gogh” experiences now popping up everywhere following the wildly successful Atelier des Lumières installation in Paris in 2018.
People I admire whose opinion I respect have also wholeheartedly recommended a visit.
Since I find it hard to be wholehearted about anything, I wanted to post these thoughts about my visit last night. Most of the images speak for themselves.
Yes, I’d go again: It’s great for date night. I imagine, earlier in the day, lots of loud, happy children running around, but that’s OK too. I would have loved the opportunity to have taken my daughters to something like this when they were young.
Bottom line: It’s an Instagram and people-watching paradise.
I’d temper expectations, though, with these half-dozen observations:
- It’s essentially a high-tech slideshow (reminding me of the highly choreographed July 4 fireworks displays).
- It’s not totally “immersive” (with all the pedestrian activity and curtains and pipes and scaffolding and neon Exit signs).
- Mind all the wandering people holding up cell phones (including me!).
- Mind all the restless people on never-ending searches for the best seat in the house (it’s all pretty much the same, but I admire their motivation).
- There’s an app for all this (and it’s quite good, too).
- There’s a gift shop about the size of half a football field (peppered with AR app-enabled activations), and prix-fixe $36 parking at the Pier 36 site.
That last is the point that disheartened me: all the commercialism, all the Van Gogh-branded merchandise.
Van Gogh’s work is now in the public domain — unlike all the Instagram photos taken at the exhibit that Mark Zuckerberg probably now owns.
A half dozen promoters of expensive, immersive Van Gogh exhibits are now profiting off the work of an artist who only sold one painting during his lifetime.
I went to the “original” exhibit at Pier 36 near South Street Seaport. I won’t risk copyright infringement by mentioning the exact name. Rest assured, there’s another similar immersive Van Gogh exhibit on the other side of Manhattan on Vesey Street, or coming soon to a town near you.
Juxtapose this commercialization of the artist with this sentimental, often-viewed video clip from a 2010 BBC episode of “Doctor Who.”
I get — and applaud — that immersive art exhibits are tantalizing glimpses of the quality of the entertainment and educational experiences made possible by technology.
I just don’t get the same connection to the source.
Not everything is a show, and Vincent Van Gogh wasn’t a brand. His painting of crows over a cornfield in Arles has long had deep personal meaning.
To me, it had always been a suicide note somehow translated to canvas.
Until last night, when it was just another Instagram post.
PS- Sometimes the view outside the exhibit is just as lovely.
Originally published at http://varettoni.blogspot.com.