Here's The Deal With The Charlotte Van Gogh Exhibit Everyone Is Talking About
You've probably heard by now that there's a new Vincent Van Gogh-themed exhibit coming to Charlotte. If not, let us break it to you: There's a new Vincent Van Gogh-themed exhibit coming to Charlotte!
“Immersive Van Gogh” features light projections of the 19th-century Dutch impressionist’s colorful paintings cast across walls and floors. And the exhibit is meant to take viewers, in a way, into Van Gogh’s creative process.
“All the images move,” said Tom Gabbard, president of Blumenthal Performing Arts, which is bringing the exhibit to Charlotte. “These are not static images, so it's like you're seeing the painting happen right in front of you, in many respects. It's like you're seeing the brush strokes.”
The Charlotte exhibit, which opens in June at Camp North End, has roughly 500,000 cubic feet of projections and 60,600 frames of video. Folks can expect to see some of Van Gogh’s most famous works, including “The Potato Eaters,” “Sunflowers,” “The Bedroom” and, of course, “Starry Night.”
Tickets went on sale Thursday, and Gabbard told WFAE he expects the exhibit to attract a lot of visitors. The hype has been building since the show was announced — and the concept itself is trendy right now, to put it mildly. More than 500,000 tickets have been sold at sister exhibits. The original run in Toronto sold out, and more dates had to be added in Chicago. Versions in New York and L.A. collectively sold more than 80,000 tickets in their first week alone.
“Immersive Van Gogh” isn’t even the only player in the immersive Van Gogh game. There’s also “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” which is opening soon in Atlanta and is already in several other cities, and a handful of similar exhibits. One was even featured in the Netflix show “Emily In Paris.” And locals might remember the “Van Gogh Alive” exhibit at Discovery Place back in 2014.
The New York Times recently featured the trend, and Artnet reports that the dueling NYC shows have led to confused ticket buyers. And the Better Business Bureau is already warning folks in Houston to make sure they double-check which show they’re signing up for before buying tickets.
Other cities are being tapped as hosts, too, but Charlotte is the first stop in the Southeast for “Immersive Van Gogh.”
“Despite being unknown throughout his life, Van Gogh’s artwork has created a lasting impact through its emotional richness and simple beauty,” Massimiliano Siccardi, the Italian digital artist who designed the exhibit, said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the Charlotte run. The exhibit also has mood-setting music from Italian multimedia composer Luca Longobardi, and Vittorio Guidotti is the art director.
"It's like you're seeing the brush strokes."
Gabbard says Blumenthal got in touch with Lighthouse Immersive, which ran the exhibit in Toronto last year, to see if Charlotte was a fit.
“It requires a very unique kind of space because it’s huge,” Gabbard said. “It is absolutely gigantic, just in the amount of square footage it needs and very tall walls.”
Enter Camp North End. The 75-acre site in north Charlotte is fast becoming one of the city’s go-to spots. It’s a former industrial complex where old factory buildings have been turned into creative spaces. The campus now has art studios, food stalls and gathering areas. Camp North End’s Ford building — once a site for building Model T and Model A cars — will host the Van Gogh exhibit.
The amount of space at Camp North End lends itself to something else that’s on everyone’s minds right now: COVID-19 safety. The exhibit will have timed entry to limit capacity. Viewers will be asked to wear masks — naturally, they can get Van Gogh-inspired ones if they forget their own — and circles projected onto the floor will provide markers for people to stand a safe distance apart from each other.
Gabbard says it’s likely the largest such event Camp North End has hosted. And it marks something of a shift for Blumenthal, which typically focuses on its own venues. Importantly, it’s also putting an event that’s a regional draw outside of uptown. People visiting Charlotte just for the event will find themselves outside of the center city.
And, back to the hype around Van Gogh right now: Yes, Gabbard does think people will travel into Charlotte just for the exhibit — maybe even staying the night. In other words, this exhibit could easily be the city’s biggest arts and culture event since before COVID-19 started shutting things down. That could mean a shot in the arm for the hospitality industry, which has been reeling for a year now.
On that note, as more people get vaccinated, are we headed into a recovery, of sorts, for the arts and entertainment events in the region? Gabbard hopes so, but he urges a bit of patience.
“I think things will ramp up over time,” he said. “I have cautioned a lot of people that we’re not just flipping a light switch and all of a sudden we’re partying like it’s 2019. I think when it comes to the event business, it will be a little bit of a slow burn, that activity will ramp up over time. Ultimately the public has to feel safe in these facilities.”