Call it a transcontinental battle of illuminated Van Goghs.
Starting next year, audiences on both shores of the US, as well as in the heartland, will be able to immerse themselves in lush, Instagram-friendly environments created through high-resolution, glowing digital renditions of works by masters such as the famed Post-Impressionist, courtesy of no fewer than three different companies.
Let’s compare the three battling visions coming to a city near you.
On the East Coast, Parisian company Culturespaces is bringing illuminated versions of the Dutch master’s works to New York. The French outfit, whose light shows have drawn millions in France, is supported in this effort by IMG, the Los Angeles talent agency that backs the tony Frieze art fair as well as glitzy events like New York Fashion Week.
Culturespaces will also present high-tech versions of Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, and other masters. Its Atelier des Lumières has drawn some 3 million visitors since setting up shop in Paris in 2018.
(You may have spotted their razzle-dazzle show in the unwatchable but popular Netflix series Emily in Paris, in which the young American forgoes the museums of the French capital in favor of an Instagram trap.)
In San Francisco, there’s “Immersive Van Gogh,” which has the backing of Starvox Entertainment, the company behind “Bend it Like Beckham: The Musical,” “Evil Dead: The Musical,” and “The Art of Banksy” (which claims to have “rare behind-the-scenes photographs of Banksy in action”—do with that what you will).
That show debuted in Toronto in June and has drawn more than 180,000 visitors.
And that’s not all!
Inspired by a Culturespaces-produced Marc Chagall spectacular he saw at Les Baux de Provence, in the South of France, the data-obsessed showman-museum director Charles Venable of Indianapolis’s Newfields (“A Place for Nature and the Arts”) is planning a 30,000-square-foot installation titled “LUME.”
It will feature state-of-the-art digital projectors creating immersive experiences, starting with images by none other than the great one-eared Dutch dauber.
Suggesting that artworks that don’t move are , the museum promises an experience that will go “beyond the static nature of traditional art exhibitions.” Venable has even scattered the institution’s contemporary art offerings throughout the museum to make way for this new permanent installation, which is being created with yet a third company, Australia’s Grande Experiences. That firm’s website boasts that its “Van Gogh Alive” is “the world’s most-visited multi-sensory experience which has been hosted by more than 50 cities internationally.”
All three companies will be competing with countless other immersive-experience traps that have gained considerable market share in the Land of the Free, such the Museum of Ice Cream and whatever Meow Wolf is up to.
None of these companies is the first to stage immersive light shows. In 1976, journalist, artist, and filmmaker Albert Plécy founded Cathédrale d’Images, which projected slides onto the walls of a limestone quarry in Les Baux-de-Provences, according to Massimiliano Siccardi, the maestro behind “Immersive Van Gogh.” In 2009, Siccardi says, his own show devoted to the works of Picasso there drew a quarter of a million visitors.
In 2012, Culturespaces started bringing art history-themed illuminated shows to those same dramatic surrounds. Siccardi stayed on for eight years as part of the team designing shows. He and Luca Longobardi, who contributed soundtracks, peeled off last year to become rivals of their former employer.
While the Indianapolis museum’s version is permanent, the ones on the coasts are fleeting, and will take place in event venues, not institutions. “Immersive Van Gogh” will open in a space of some 500,000 cubic feet; Culturespaces, meanwhile, will set up shop at the Beaux-Arts building that once housed the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank in Lower Manhattan. It offers 28,000 square feet of space featuring abundant sculptures, marble, and stained glass windows.
So, there you have it: whether you’re on an American coast or in the Midwest, as long as you have a hankering for a high-wattage , you’ve got options.