Created by French-Canadian Director Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at Montreal’s world-renowned Normal Studio, the exhibit “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” premiered in Milwaukee on July 9 at the Wisconsin Center and will run through September 19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, venues like the Wisconsin Center across the world came to an immediate halt. For an event driven space it was devastating. So when the facility found out that the Van Gogh exhibit was something that could be brought to Milwaukee, it focused on making that happen.

“I think what has surprised me most is just how proud I am that the Wisconsin Center has been able to bring this exhibit in during this time for the city we love. It’s not often that a convention center has the space and opportunity to do a long standing residency,” said Sarah Maio, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Wisconsin Center District. “So the stars all came together and the planets aligned. I think it was really meaningful, and I’m so proud to bring this to Milwaukee.”

The layout of “Beyond Van Gogh” is timed to only allow 250 to 300 people to enter, so that there is enough space for the visual experience. When preparations were first made for the event, Milwaukee was still under full masking requirements. But the intended capacity met with city guidelines. Now with the mask order lifted, the capacity will remain the same to allow room for visitors to have an amazing experience.

“Our hope for all guests who walk through our doors is that they feel rejuvenated and fulfilled, and just reignited with a spark and an energy of being among people again. But also being among these works that everyone is familiar with, and to take a minute to really dive in and sort of let go,” added Maio. “What a beautiful release after 18 months of high stress, high tension, and unbelievable circumstances. It is a beautiful opportunity to just take a breath and engage.”

“Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” is a walk-through exhibition that allows for 6-feet of distance between all attendees. It features more than 300 of Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic artworks, including instantly recognizable classics such as “The Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “Café Terrace at Night.”

Expanding Van Gogh’s universe to a sharable 360° projection environment required a blend of technical and creative considerations. His colorful canvases were brought to life by over 4 trillion content pixels in the multi-dimensional projections that appear and disappear, flow across multiple surfaces, and heighten the senses with their colossal detail. The musical score includes an eclectic mixture of contemporary musical tracks, including Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, and Max Richter.

The stunning visual sensation has already sold over 53,000 tickets in Milwaukee. The exhibit debuted in Miami in the spring, and has stops in more than 17 cities planned for the rest of the year. It is anticipated to entertain more that one million guests nationwide in 2021.

Over the course of a strikingly short career, Vincent Van Gogh created a body of work brimming with such life that the passing years have had little effect on its radiance. The exhibition seeks to explore that perpetual relevance by diving into this world of paint with the same sense of freedom that infuses it.

An exhibition on a renowned painter without the paintings themselves was an impossible task that became an incredible opportunity. To set foot in “Beyond Van Gogh” is to take a glimpse of day-to-day life encounters with Vincent – the man behind the artist, behind the legend, behind the notorious madness.

In the spirit of the master himself, “Beyond Van Gogh” aspires to inject new life and light to these familiar works. The unlikely pairing of the digital and the classical allows visitors to intimately connect with the hopeful vision of a world filled with color, compassion, and emotion.

With a rich and unique multimedia experience, “Beyond Van Gogh” takes on the challenge of breathing new life into a familiar body of work. The exhibit breaks the confines of the framed canvas and allows visitors to step into a larger-than-life world where paint is applied all around them.

Wielding color and light, Van Gogh transformed hardship and darkness into brightness and joy, infusing his work with a contagious sense of hope that still rings true today. “Beyond Van Gogh” allows the Milwaukee public to be inspired anew, and to explore his iconic body of work after a long season of social isolation.

Lee Matz

Lee Matz