Art News

Behind the Scenes of an Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Coming to Denver

Immersive Van Gogh allows audience members to experience Van Gogh's artwork in an entirely new way.
Immersive Van Gogh allows audience members to experience Van Gogh's artwork in an entirely new way. Nina Westervelt
Immersive Van Gogh is coming to Denver on September 30, and while the location was initially kept secret, it's now been revealed that the production company, Immersive Lighthouse, will be establishing Lighthouse Denver in the former Regency Hotel at 3900 Elati Street.

The circa '60s structure will be illuminated with animated film that reconstructs and deconstructs Van Gogh’s artwork, allowing the audience a deep dive inside the paintings and accompanying storyline. Immersive Van Gogh features the concept design of Massimiliano Siccardi, set designs of Davin Korins and compositions by Luca Longobardi. The result isn’t solely an exhibit of Van Gogh’s work, but also a reflection and refraction of those modern-day artists adding their own creative ingenuity, producer Corey Ross says.

“It’s a completely new genre of art,” continues Ross. Instead of viewing paintings hung on a wall or sitting in a row of seats, the audience has a chance to be enveloped within the creation and watch the performance unfold around them.

Ross first saw one of Siccardi’s Van Gogh exhibitions in Paris. It was the show featured in Emily in Paris, a Netflix series that exposed many to the intermingling of technology and art. Ross was awestruck and knew he wanted to help bring the exhibit to North America. His decision wasn’t based on a previous love of Van Gogh, but instead an admiration of the way Siccardi approaches the immersive media. Siccardi has been creating immersive art shows in Europe for almost thirty years, says Ross.

The North American show allowed Siccardi to deepen his vision for the experience. He wanted to explore what could have been the final thoughts of the artist before he passed away in 1890. The result is a stream-of-conscious narrative that details Van Gogh’s relationship with color. It’s not a linear journey, but one that crescendos and creates suspense between Longobardi’s orchestration and a storyline that makes note of particular moments in the artist’s life.

Since the first Immersive Van Gogh opened in Toronto last year, the company has premiered exhibits in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. And by the end of the year, they expect to be running twenty shows in North America. However, even though each Immersive Van Gogh is consistent in its storyline, every iteration is formatted to its location.
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The exhibition includes the artistic perspectives of immersive artist Massimiliano Siccardi and set designer David Korins.
Nina Westervelt
The show uses 90,000,000 pixels of animation that must be specifically programmed to interact with the architecture of each building that hosts the exhibit. Furthermore, the intention is to recognize the sense of history each building has to offer. For example, in San Francisco, the show takes place at the Fillmore, which hosted acts such as Jefferson Airplane, the Doors and the Grateful Dead. In New York, the exhibition takes place on Tier 36, allowing the audience to exit the show by the water, under a scattering of city stars.

Plans for the Denver exhibition are still being created, but organizers are hoping to highlight some of the Regency’s history and possibly bring attention to some of its famous guests, such as Elvis Presley. The Denver show will also be unique in its set design, created by Emmy Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated designer David Korins.

Korins, who is known for set designs for such Broadway hits as Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, is only working on six of the Immersive Van Gogh exhibitions around the country. His designs are meant to enhance the enveloping nature of the experience. In New York, he added installations such as a chandelier of paintbrushes meant to imitate "The Starry Night."

Immersive Van Gogh is not the only immersive Van Gogh exhibition, and it’s not the only one coming to Denver this summer. Van Gogh Alive will run at the Hanger at Stanley Marketplace from July 9 through September 26. But Ross hopes that people will attend Immersive Van Gogh as much because of the artistic direction of Siccardi and Korins as seeing Van Gogh’s. work.

“It’s [about] who creates the art. It’s not simply the creation that Van Gogh did," he says. "It’s the approach. It’s the refraction that makes it interesting."

To learn more about Immersive Van Gogh and to purchase tickets, visit the Immersive Lighthouse website.
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Claire Duncombe is a Denver-based freelance writer who covers the environment, agriculture, food, music, the arts and other subjects.
Contact: Claire Duncombe