Arts art exhibition review

Imagine Van Gogh takes us beyond our imaginations and allows us to live out the paintings

An hour feels like a few minutes in this immersive experience

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Production still of Flowering Plum Orchard.
Laurence Labat
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Production still of The Garden of Saint Paul's Hospital.
Laurence Labat
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Production still of Starry Night.
Laurence Labat

Imagine Van Gogh, the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale©
Created by Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron
SoWa Power Station
550 Harrison Ave
Boston, MA 02118
Sunday–Thursday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Friday–Saturday 9 a.m.–9 p.m.
On display until March 19, 2022

This immersive exhibition aims to create a dialogue between the paintings of Van Gogh and the audience. This is made possible through Image Totale© which, unlike television screens, does not let the audience remain passive. Instead, they are transformed into an active spectator in a wonderland of images they are free to explore.

Van Gogh painted for ten years; however, the creators of the exhibition, Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron, curated a collection consisting of works from only the last two years of his career, the time when Van Gogh’s paintings opened the path to modernity and marked the beginnings of contemporary abstraction. The collection marks Van Gogh’s journey from Provence to Auvers-sur-Oise, at the edge of Paris. Mauger and Baron believe “this journey is in parallel with the path of each visitor, who finds their apotheosis in this exhibition.”

The background music sets the tone of the exhibit as soon as the audience enters. Featuring the works of some of the greatest composers, including Prokofiev, Saint-Saëns, Schubert, Mozart, Bach, and Satie, the music amplifies the emotions of the paintings and acts as a language used by the paintings to speak to the audience.

In SoWa Power Station where the exhibits are displayed, the very ideas of a center or a periphery; a beginning or an end cease to exist, enabling visitors to imagine their own Vincent Van Gogh. Visitors are allowed to walk around and look at moving images on multiple walls simultaneously. Some of the works that stand out in the immersive experience are Starry Night, Van Gogh Self-Portrait, Bedroom in Arles, Seascape at Saintes-Maries, Café Terrace at Night, Japonaiserie: Flowering Plum Tree, and Sunflowers.

While Starry Night is undoubtedly the most iconic painting and Van Gogh’s magnum opus, Image Totale© elevates the experience of the painting by making visitors feel as if they are traveling in the vast skies, surrounded by, gazing at, and looking down upon the stars. In a sharp contrast to the blue hues of Starry Night and Seascape at Saintes-Maries, the white flowers of the plum trees painted on a red background in Japonaiserie: Flowering Plum Tree express how Japanese art has influenced Van Gogh’s works, bringing him joy. His euphoric emotions are indeed evident in Japonaiserie: Flowering Plum Tree, where he made the colors more intense and introduced borders to produce a decorative and exotic effect, all the while reproducing Utagawa Hiroshige's Plum Garden in Kameido.

Van Gogh wrote about nature in one of his letters to his brother, stating, “It’s too beautiful for me to dare paint it or form an idea about it.” Despite this, he brought nature to life in his artwork in the form of starry night skies, blue oceans, bright yellow sunflowers, and exotic plum trees. Meanwhile, his paintings Bedroom in Arles and Café Terrace at Night portray everyday events in the lives of common people.

Overall, I would highly recommend visiting Imagine Van Gogh at SoWa Power Station. The 45-minute exhibition offers a completely unique perspective into art, successfully transporting visitor into painting and enabling a dialogue between the two. While the regular tickets are $39.99, you can visit in groups of four and get discounted tickets at $34.99 per person. Trust me when I say it is worth every penny!