Van Gogh Experience attracts a new audience in Seattle

The traveling exhibition highlights the importance of art history in a modern form


Faith hill

Blossoming Growth: Junior Gabrielle Dacar stands in front of sunflowers at the exhibition entrance. The Van Gogh Experience is a 360° immersive exhibition of the artist’s work and lifetime to show it to a new audience in a new light. “Bringing to life the culture and how people visualize things, it’s very important. It brings in individualism and just a new way of viewing aspects of life,” senior Lillianne Head said.

Art is an ever-changing medium and can allow us to view old pieces of art in a new light. Sometimes, this comes in the form of reimagining older, well-known art (and artists) with a modern ‘spin’ placed onto them, as is the case with the traveling Van Gogh Immersive Experience, which is an art exhibition.

This experience documents the history of Van Gogh through audio and visuals accompanied by examples of his work along the walls. There’s also 3D, physical replications of some of his pieces along the way (which are the perfect photo spots). However, this isn’t the main attraction for guests; the projector room is where the real immersion begins. This room has projected images and animations on all four walls and even on the floor. As you step through the flaps covering a doorway, visitors are thrust into the world and mind of Van Gogh, first by experiencing multiple of his paintings as if you were living in them, this too accompanied by audio to further immerse the viewer.

“I thought it was really beautiful, and it was really interesting to see his famous paintings move … it was just a new experience with his art,” junior Paisley Ladd said.

From here, the room shifts, building up 3-dimensional walls that replicate hallways, which is where more personal interpretation comes into play. In these hallways, there’s a great deal of repetition of paintings flashing in the halls, then jumping to portraits and repeating with interactions and other paintings (hint: look at the floor) that I won’t spoil here.

If you pay for a VIP ticket, you get access to the VR experience after this, which is similar to the previous room in terms of content, but presented differently. You are put in the eyes of Van Gogh and experience a walk through the forest and towns, with his voice documenting his more introspective thoughts and the places you stop, which turn into his famous paintings, before ending up back in his bedroom.

This whole experience is roughly 60-75 minutes long, depending on how long you stay and what ticket you have. The exhibition is running until May 1st, 2022. And although the experience is beautiful and mesmerizing to watch, it does bring up questions surrounding the importance of art history to our society and education.

“When you don’t know your own history or your human history, you’re doomed to repeat. There’s so many things, and artists, particularly our society-wise, they’re a little bit like the court jester, right, they can tell the king the truth,” Willow Kosbab said.

Without knowing and understanding our art history, artists like Van Gogh wouldn’t be as known or remembered as they are today. Their thoughts, beliefs and criticisms would be lost to time. Art tends to present the truth, or someone’s viewpoint of it, which can tell us a lot about people’s beliefs at the time and catch errors in the way the “actual” history was taught.

Art is also a universal language, which makes telling its story that much easier. Take the Van Gogh Immersive Experience; for example, aside from the beginning portion (which isn’t included in all the traveling locations), it can be completely understood even if you don’t speak English. Additionally, the symbol of a mother holding a child can be universally understood without speaking the same language from artist to viewer.

“Art is something that is super universal, you can see it in any place in the world. And it should be viewed respectfully everywhere, and admired, in my opinion, because it just brings in everybody’s personal view of the world,” senior Lillianne Head said.

Unfortunately, art history isn’t talked about much outside of artistic circles, but places like the Van Gogh Immersive Experience are opening that door for people to have the chance to experience this history and spread awareness about its existence, to keep its message alive through this modern interpretation of old work. Art history is an integral part of our society and the way we function within it, because knowing our history is one half of the battle towards progression.

“It’s incredibly important as a civilization that we recognize it connects all of us. So art history, I think, is unifying … it’s a global study, so I think that’s pretty important to give us more understanding of who we are on this little tiny rock in space,” Kosbab said.