Tucson’s run of ‘Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience’ opens Friday

After weeks of anticipation, the Tucson run of “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” opens on Friday, Aug. 11, at the Oro Valley Marketplace.  

But unless you reserved tickets early, you might miss out on the opening weekend.

A journalist sits in the immersive room as a 360-degree video projects “The Starry Night” painting by Vincent Van Gogh, during a media preview of the “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” at the Oro Valley Marketplace on Aug. 8. The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, Aug. 11.

Most of the time slots Friday through Sunday, Aug. 13, are sold out; Monday, Aug. 14, is a safer bet if you want to go in the afternoon. 

The high-tech digital art exhibition features some 400 images, digital and canvas reproductions, from the seminal 19th century Franco-Dutch Post-impressionist artist, including his famous sunflower paintings. the iconic “The Starry Night,” “The Siesta” and his final work, “Tree Roots.”

The creator, Exhibition Hub, arranged the exhibit chronologically, allowing visitors to learn about van Gogh’s life beyond the ubiquitous story of the tortured artist who cut off his ear.

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“Van Gogh is a rock star,” said John Zaller, Exhibition Hub’s executive producer whose 25-year career creating immersive experiences has included being part of the creative team behind “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition;” “Jurassic World: The Exhibition;” “Bodies the Exhibition;” and “Star Trek: The Exhibition.” “There’s a big buzz around this but the buzz is created as much by the technology as the artist himself. Van Gogh is such a big name. He’s still the star of the show; he’s just on a different stage.”

Exhibition Hub, one of several companies touring immersive, high-tech van Gogh shows nationwide, creates a narrative of van Gogh’s short and troubled life and how that translated into works that transformed the art world in the late 19th century through today.

We meet his sisters, who were not fans until after his death, and his beloved brother Theodorus, who was his most ardent champion until his death and was so heartbroken by the loss that his health deteriorated and he died six months later. 

The famous painting, “Bedroom in Arles,” by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888, is recreated in 3D version for visitors to sit in and take photos at “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.” The exhibit opens to the public on Aug. 11.

The exhibit in the old World Market space includes two 3D stages where visitors can take photos: the 1888 “Bedroom in Arles” and the “Vestibule in the Asylum” from 1889. 

One of the most anticipated highlights of “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” comes at the end, when visitors enter a large room that features a 360-degree digital show that brings 200 van Gogh masterpieces to life. Sixty projectors are used to animate the walls and floors with images. Sit on one of the benches or in the camping chairs set up around the space and you will feel like you are in the middle of van Gogh’s creative process. Images appear behind digital Japanese-style screens and the walls fill with brilliant almond blossoms and his trademark sunflowers.

At the end of the exhibit, visitors can take a virtual reality tour of a day in van Gogh’s life and visit the crayon table where they can color a van Gogh drawing or create their own.

Zaller said audience members often leave with a bigger appreciation for van Gogh and “come out inspired to create their own art.”

“They come out feeling peaceful,” he said, adding that a guest at a show in Los Angeles recently commented to him that “if there was a heaven on Earth, this would be it.” 

“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” runs Thursdays-Mondays through Sept. 30. Zaller said the show could be extended based on community interest.

“We would love to continue to bring content here,” he said. “It’s a wonderful part of the country and it’s a community that supports the arts.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected]. On Twitter @Starburch

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