ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Though painter Vincent van Gogh has been gone for more than a century, his work is alive and thriving in a multisensory exhibit now showing at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg through April 11, 2021.
"Van Gogh Alive" presents visitors a nearly 40-minute immersion in the Dutch post-impressionist's work with more than 3,000 images projected at enormous scale and set to classical music. Though the exhibit doesn't contain narration, the creative works reveal an artist who was passionate and expressive but deeply troubled.
"In his 37 years, he painted abundantly enough to be perhaps the most recognized name in the world in art. He didn't have a happy life, he had a life of aspiration and striving," said Dr. Hank Hine, executive director of the Dali Museum. "In 10 years, he painted nearly 1,000 paintings."
The experience takes place in a large, dark room without seating and was created by Grande Experiences of Melbourne, Australia. Before arriving at the Dali Museum, the touring exhibit appeared in cities such as Beijing; Berlin; Madrid, Spain; and Rome.
Timed-entry tickets are required in advance to visit this exhibit, which is included in the price of admission. Tickets are currently available through Jan. 3, 2021. Temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings are required for guests.
The artistic journey begins with Van Gogh's early works from the Netherlands – sketches of gaunt trees and a painted skeleton smoking a cigarette – before transitioning into his time in Paris filled with portraits and urban still life.
Occasionally, a short block of text serves to inform guests of the context behind the works. But the paintings are largely allowed to speak for themselves, colors and details suggesting calm or turbulent times in Van Gogh's life at a scale rarely seen.
'The world as he perceived it'
One section of the multimedia experience yields bright flowers that pop up on towering screens in time with the plucking of violins. In other instances, paintings receive new flair in the form of an animated train passing or clouds wisping by. Sometimes, the painter's individual brushstrokes stand taller than the humans in the room and the synchronicity with music brings a new, emotional vitality to the work.
"You'll see Van Gogh's vigorous brushstrokes trying to imitate the energy of the world as he perceived it," Hine said. "The darkest times still had activity and vibrancy and life."
Midway through the presentation, a prolific and happy chapter of Van Gogh's life unfolds in Arles, France, full of vibrant sunflower still life and countryside landscapes. This was the time when the creator was on the verge of an artistic breakthrough, but also a mental breakdown.
In 1889, Van Gogh committed himself to Saint-Paul Asylum at Saint-Remy, where he painted his iconic work, "The Starry Night."
Self-portraits close out the multimedia homage to Van Gogh, helping visitors reflect on a passionate but burdened life ended by a self-inflicted shot to the chest. A quote fades in and helps in remembering the painter's true character.
"I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people," Van Gogh once said.