Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) – who sold only one painting in his lifetime – always said that he wanted to leave a souvenir of himself in this world. The drawings and paintings he created over the last 10 years of his life, to say nothing of the letters he wrote, mainly to his art-dealing brother and patron, Theo – are all glorious souvenirs. They were lovingly kept, collected and ultimately curated by Theo’s widow, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, the woman who made Vincent van Gogh Vincent van Gogh.
But souvenirs can also be found in the many Vincent-inspired works, including the moving (in more ways than one) “Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York,” on view through Sept. 6 but with ticket availability really only through Aug. 29.
As the floor seems to rise and fall away, images flood galleries top to bottom and all around – almond blossoms, irises, sunflowers and wheat fields; postmasters, prostitutes and potato eaters; the Yellow House where he lived in Arles, the cafés where he struggled to find community; the sanatoriums where he nonetheless persevered.
These are not exact replicas of Van Gogh paintings but projections of iconic pieces of them – put together by Massimiliano Siccardi with creative direction by “Hamilton’s” David Korins — that waft by as you listen to a varied soundtrack that includes everything from Handel’s Sarabande in D minor to “The Great Gate of Kiev,” from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” and Edith Piaf singing “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”
The half-hour spectacular — which you can watch again and again before heading off, as we did, to the inevitable banquet of a gift shop – loosely follows the tragic, transcendent trajectory of Van Gogh’s life, from his dark, early Dutch works to the brilliant palette of his Impressionist revelations to madness, death and immortality. (We saw it on the 131st anniversary of his death, July 29.)
Mostly, though, the show envelopes you with love – the love of the arts, the love Vincent struggled to find and give, the love we have for him.
What would he have made of all this? No doubt, he would have been overwhelmed. We hope he would’ve also been pleased to know that he and his “souvenirs” are cherished.
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