The ivory almond blossoms fall softly, almost callously, as curiosity mounts — can we leap up and maybe catch a few? The Vincent Van Gogh masterpiece that embodies the artist’s yearning for hope and awakening is just an outstretched arm away, consuming the space that you sit on. A few seconds in, you breathe and live within the painting. As many vibrant sunflowers flit across, lending an ode to Van Gogh’s much-loved recurrent motif, one feels enveloped in a warm embrace. Familiar canvases from the most popular Starry Nights to the more melancholic The Potato Eaters flash all around, piecing together the life and times of the great post-Impressionist artist, in a spatially interactive display.
After Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, Chennai is next in line to host the The Real Van Gogh immersive exhibit at the city’s own Express Avenue mall in February 2024.
But what is going to be presented in Chennai is different from what has been seen and done in other Indian cities. “The use of 20,000 lumens projectors has never been attempted before, and this is going to bring enormous clarity and depth to the art showcased. Most importantly, the significantly brighter projectors will highlight Van Gogh’s art’s most recognisable technique — his use of bright colours and bold brush strokes,” says Sharan John, founder, The Silly Fellows who brought the show to India.
The idea to develop and bring The Real Van Gogh immersive experience stemmed from its overwhelming global success. “That said, the exhibition aims to take audiences beyond art, into an immersive realm that re-imagines Van Gogh’s art, allowing it to resonate with audiences of all ages and across demographics,” adds Sharan. Apart from being a haven for art enthusiasts, Sharan anticipates that the exhibit would be an “enormous success” among the younger generation, especially content creators.
Van Gogh’s life story is anything but linear. Like any other lived experience, it is vast and layered. Since the show is well-travelled and has parallel runs across the globe, does the narrative also change?
“While the core narrative of most exhibits remains consistent to preserve the essence of Van Gogh’s artistic journey, we have tailored certain aspects of Chennai’s The Real Van Gogh immersive experience to cater to the educational aspirations of the audience,” says Sharan. To that end, a “deeply immersive” Infinity Room has been fashioned as part of the exhibit, a first in India. “However, the main focal point continues to be Van Gogh’s evolution as an artist, his unique techniques, and the emotional depth within each piece. The exhibition also serves as an educational platform, providing insights into the artist’s work, his life and the historical context of his masterpieces,” continues Sharan.
A Van Gogh-themed art cafe, meant for patrons looking for a more relaxed and social setting, is also woven into the experience. “Visitors can expect a blend of art and gastronomy, not to mention conversations, over a cup of coffee and a slice of dessert,” says Sharan. The cafe will sport a thematic decor, and a menu inspired by the artist’s life and work.
Setting up 20,000 lumens projectors is not without its technical challenges. “They are primarily related to calibration, ambient light control, and maintaining optimal image quality. Our team of experts has worked diligently to overcome these challenges, ensuring that the projection aligns perfectly with the intricacies of the masterpieces. Rigorous testing and calibration processes have been implemented,” assures Sharan.
Concerns about the quality of the display in some other Indian cities that recently floated on social media are also the primary reason behind setting up 20,000 units of lumens projectors. Says Sharan, “We know that lower intensity projectors (like 6,000 to 8,000 lumens units) would leave audiences disappointed and fail to deliver a ‘real’ immersive experience.” The team has learned to implement enhanced display mechanisms and will also have enough staff for guidance, he adds.
There is palpable excitement surrounding the display in the city: and it is the biggest yet in India. “Chennai is a city that is steeped in art and art history, and the city’s art lovers have always demonstrated a keen interest in diverse artistic expressions. We are excited to witness their engagement with Van Gogh’s exceptional works,” concludes Sharan.
The Real Van Gogh Immersive Experience will be on display from February 2 to 20, 2024 from 10am to 10pm at Express Avenue mall. Tickets are priced at ₹799 onwards on insider.in.