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REVIEW: Should you Van Gogh? Are You on a Date? (Lighthouse)

Patrons take in the Immersive Van Gogh Experience, now playing at Lighthouse Minneapolis in Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Lucas Wells.

It’s been a week since the opening of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Northeast Minneapolis. This traveling multimedia experience runs through October 31, 2021, immersing visitors in a 360-degree, projected dive into some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous canvases, letters, and a few lesser-known connections. It’s definitely one for the memory books – but is it worth $40 (and climbing) per person?

The answer to that question depends a lot on what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to pay for. If you’re there solo, you can take in the main exhibition rooms and their looping video, spend some time on the lobby extras (including a neat Stone Arch Bridge-Van Gogh mashup of a mural), and be out in an hour without feeling rushed. Bringing small children is probably not worth your while. But if you’re looking for an hour or two of a unique experience to share with a date or a friend, with lots to talk about afterwards? That’s where IVGE’s sweet spot lies.

Patrons are encouraged to sit on the floor, take selfies, talk, and otherwise take in the Van Gogh paintings projected on the walls and ceilings. Photo by Nina Westervelt.

To get your dollar’s worth from the Immersive Van Gogh Experience, here are a few things that you should try that you might not do in a museum:

  • Get up close and personal with the art. The paintings are digitally projected onto the walls and floors, so there’s no need to worry about accidentally touching a fragile painting. Many smaller details in the canvases are easy to spot when blown up to fill a gallery; if you have 20/20 vision, you still have to get 3-4 feet from a wall to see the pixel dots.
  • Have you and your companion(s) play around with taking pictures with (and in) the art. If you’re looking for something with the detail and contrast in the exhibit’s promotional photos, you’ll want to bring the nicest camera that you have – but a decent smartphone from the last few years will easily take some snazzy shots for your social media sharing of choice. Selfies won’t catch nearly enough of the background for the sense of immersion to come across.
  • Talk about details and point. This is far from a stereotypical quiet museum gallery, with loud music playing (optional earplugs available) and panning shots creating a dynamic background. Why wait until you’ve left to talk about things that catch your eye?
  • Take a break between the two main rooms. IVGE has the entrance foyer, and two main rooms with the same video projections but a very different ambiance. Room 2 notably doubles down on the immersion factor, and is probably not the one for you if you’re overstimulated easily. Instead, watch the whole loop in the Room 1 and take a break, then take a gander at Room 2 – it will be less overwhelming. 
  • Stop by the gift shop on the way out. There’s a lot of the normal branded merchandise, but also a detailed guide with more information on the specific paintings and other art elements on display in the exhibition.
  • Send your friends pictures while you’re at the exhibition. Did you invite someone to come and get turned down? Induce jealousy by sending them pictures of you looking snazzy with Starry, Starry Night digitally painted across your whole body.
  • Spend some time decompressing and chatting before you leave. 
A patron snaps a photo of a painting detail during the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit. Photo by Nina Westervelt.

The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit plays at Lighthouse Minneapolis (1515 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413) through October 31, 2021.

Basil Considine