For my husband’s post-lockdown birthday, the family sprang across town to see one of the two Van Gogh digital exhibitions in London this summer. Ours was The Immersive Experience, installed in a two-story converted stable yard in Spitalfields, complete with a VR room and a 360° surround tech of Van Gogh’s most known works. The multisensory experience lived up to the hype, offering the viewer a different feel from a traditional museum visit indeed.
In fact, for me, it took more than the follow-on dinner at Ottolenghi Spitalfields to digest the digital experience. A birthday supposes a lighthearted celebration and it was difficult to discuss the artwork of a man whose art revealed so much pain and hardship and poverty. The 360° immersive art experience was truly mind-blowing but tough given we'd just had a glimpse of the outrageous auction prices – hundreds of millions of dollars – none of which Vincent or his supportive brother Theo received in their lifetimes.
A few days later, I’ve finally had the time to reflect on the Van Gogh experience. At my desk, I’m comforted by a picture of a whale, drafted by another favorite impressionist – my daughter at nineteen months old. Time has a strange way of clarifying an artist's expression, and I can now see the joy my daughter so clearly fixed in the movement of her whale just as I can see Vincent’s wretchedness etched into his cold and starry nights.
Art is provocative and sometimes hard. Still, if you’re open to the idea of looking at art through a different lens, try out one of the virtual experiences:
The Van Gogh Exhibition London: The Immersive Experience in Spitalfields until Feb 2022
Van Gogh Alive London in Hyde Park until 26 September 2021
Have a great weekend – a long bank holiday weekend for those in the UK! Enjoy!