Baffled by all the immersive art exhibits happening across Canada? Here is a guide for you
With luck, most pandemic kingpins will be left on the scrap heap of history, discarded like so many snot-stained KN95s. Zoom theater? Drive-in comedy shows? May we never hear these phrases again. But there is one craze that persists, even as restrictions have eased, and that is immersive multimedia productions dedicated to Vincent van Gogh.
In the spring of 2021, three separate van Gogh shows were running in this country, and a year and a full cycle of vaccinations later, the trend is still strong. Five van Gogh productions are currently underway in Canada, and by the end of 2022 they will have reached at least 10 cities coast to coast.
Presented by different corporate entities, each van Gogh exhibition is subtly different, but despite variations in form and ticket prices, they all make the same general promise to visitors: explore the life and art of van Gogh by admiring giant projections of his greatest of all time. shots. Sometimes there is the option of taking a walk-in yoga class, sometimes not. But spectacle and edutainment are virtually guaranteed.
Earlier this month, two separate shows were set to premiere in Halifax. Potential ticket buyers could not tell one from the other, and in response to public confusion, the organizers of one production (Van Gogh 360º) announced that they would “joining forceswith their competition. From now on, only one van Gogh exhibition will appear in the city (Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience), and it will honor all tickets purchased for the other.
But audiences’ appetite for immersive entertainment hasn’t been limited to sunflowers and starry nights. There are now 360 degree light shows dedicated to Pablo picasso (one closed in Vancouver in January), Claude Monet, Frida Kahlo. You’d think the injection of new subjects would open up the market a bit, and yet each tribute exhibition seems to spawn a whole new army of imitators. Several Monets! Kahlo clones!
So to save you some frustration, here’s a guide to some of the immersive productions on deck for this year, along with information on where to find them.
Van Gogh go ahead!
Van Gogh 360º
the Halifax The Van Gogh 360º iteration may have been canceled, but this immersive production is still slated for other Canadian cities this summer: Niagara Falls, Ont. (July 20); Ottawa (July 21) and Charlottetown (5 August).
Presented by Festival House Inc. (the same Ottawa-based events company that works on the city’s RBC Bluesfest), the show heralds a familiar mix of music and panoramic projections (played on screens). Admission prices vary, but adult tickets (for peak times and dates) start at $41.
Immersive Van Gogh
Presented by Toronto’s Immersive Lighthouse, this production has weathered more than a few pandemic shutdowns since its launch at the former Toronto Star print shop in June 2020. At the time, the show was a driving experiencebut on these near-normal days, visitors can explore the exhibit on foot – all 4,000 square feet of it.
Adult tickets range from $39.99 – $99.99, and the show itself benefits from a connection to the Atelier des Lumières in Paris, the attraction that arguably brought light show mania to the masses; its former artist-in-residence, Massimiliano Siccardi, created Immersive van Gogh — a company that has since grown far beyond its Toronto roots, establishing outposts in 19 US cities.
Beyond Van Gogh: the immersive experience
Created by Mathieu St-Arnaud from Montreal (standard studio), this show is another global export. As of this writing, tickets are available in over 20 cities, from São Paulo to Albuquerque, and while he’s currently playing the Halifax Expo Centerthree other Canadian stops are planned for the next few months.
It opens in Winnipeg July 14thand presales take place in Victoria and SurreyBEFORE CHRIST (dates to be determined). With animated projections designed to cover any cavernous locale it occupies, this one is also set to music. (Sample the soundtrack here.) Adult tickets for the Halifax show starts at $35.99.
Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition
Imagined by Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron of the Cathedrale d’Images (a multimedia theater in France), this show was first presented in 2017. Since then, Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition has reached a few Canadian cities, including Vancouver (where he was appearing this time last year).
Come October 22the show hits the Kellogg factory in London, Ont., where he will remain until January 8. The soundtrack for this one is classic, but not necessarily in tune with the top 40 hits of van Gogh’s era. Included in the admission price ($39 and up) is access to an “educational room”, where visitors can learn about the artist before exploding their senses in the light show part.
Van Gogh – Distortion
Like Beyond Van Gogh, this Montreal production has ties to the city’s Normal Studio. Launched at OASIS Immersion last month (a downtown venue dedicated exclusively to multimedia exhibits), some of the animated projections (which are based on a few hundred van Gogh originals) respond to visitors’ movements, and if that’s not futuristic enough for you, the show takes the viewer beyond van Gogh’s world.
There’s a section where they drop you into contemporary sounds and visuals inspired by his work – and another that imagines what Van Gogh would dream of if he were alive today. Cost of adult tickets $28and this will give you access to all the offers of the place.
Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon
Elsewhere in Montreal, you can step into the world of another artist… who is arguably more famous than van Gogh. Frida Kahlo: The life of an icon opens June 10 to Contemporary Arsenal. Presented as an “immersive biography” rather than an art exhibition, this traveling production appears in several cities, although Montreal is its only Canadian stop (so far).
Co-created by the Frida Kahlo Corporation, this one describes itself as the “official” 360 Frida thing on the market (a tricky label to put on the show given the history of who manages the legacy of the artist). With a mix of immersive screenings, VR and IRL installations, standard tickets start at $34.99.
Immersive Frida Kahlo
More in Toronto there’s Immersive Frida Kahlo, a show from the same team behind Immersive Van Gogh. Like the production in Montreal, visitors will be drawn into the story of Kahlo’s life, here told through a mix of archival footage and artwork. The artist’s niece and grand-niece (Mara Romero Kahlo and Mara De Anda) were at the Lighthouse Artspace Toronto for the local premiere of the exhibition in late March.
They’re fans of this one, but they’ve also endorsed other Frida-centric extravaganzas – productions that have yet to reach Canada, including Frida: The Immersive Experience, a light show that appeared in Mexico City last summer. Tickets start at $29.99and just like Immersive Van Gogh, there’s the option to join a Frida-themed barre or yoga class.
Or if you prefer to bathe in a more art nouveau environment, Lighthouse Artspace Toronto also presents Immersive Klimt: Revolutionhomage to the Austrian painter (from $39). There are of course already clones of Klimt, but Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion and Klimt: the immersive experience have not yet reached these borders.
Immersive Monet and the Impressionists?
Viewing Monet water lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie looks a lot like the granddaddy of “immersive entertainment,” so a multimedia extravaganza feels like a gimme. According to the website of Torontofrom Show One Productions, a Immersive Monet and the Impressionists production is in preparation for this summer (details to be confirmed).
Beyond Monet is brought to you by the same creative team as Beyond Van Gogh, and since closing a run in Toronto this year, it is set to appear in two other Canadian cities (Calgary and Ottawa). Further information on these particular tour dates has yet to be revealed, but whenever (and where) Beyond Monet Lands, the show is designed to wrap around 50,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Imagine Monet: The Immersive Exhibition
Another company with a stake in Big Van Gogh also has a Monet exhibit in Canada. Their dates, however, are already on the books. The show opens in Edmonton (June 8), Quebec (June 10) and Ottawa (June 16).