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In Toronto, a Drive-In Exhibition Immerses Visitors in Vincent van Gogh’s Art

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Drive-in Vincent van Gogh exhibition

Concept art for the drive-in Vincent van Gogh exhibition in Toronto (Immersive van Gogh)

smithsonianmag.com May 19, 2020 2:55PM

At a time when many museums and galleries are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one exhibition has decided to open its doors—or, more specifically, the doors to its loading dock. Come June, art lovers in Toronto will be able to drive their cars into a 4,000-square-foot warehouse, shut off their engines and watch a digital art show about Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, all without needing to unbuckle their seatbelts.

As Kevin Ritchie reports for NOW magazine, the team behind "Immersive van Gogh" originally planned to host the sound-and-light installation in the five-story Toronto Star building. But when social-distancing guidelines foiled plans for a May opening, organizers decided to launch a drive-in "preview" at the warehouse that formerly housed the newspaper's printing presses. From June 18 to 28, 14 vehicles at a time will be allowed to drive in and enjoy a 35-minute show about the Dutch artist.

"The lights go down and the projection begins," co-producer Corey Ross tells CBC News' Zulekha Nathoo. "It will be almost as if the car is floating through the paintings."

Dubbed "Gogh in Your Car" (a pun that only works if you pronounce the painter's last name as "Go," the typical American pronunciation), the temporary display is already sold out. Tickets, which cost around $68 per two-person vehicle, come with complimentary entry to the physical exhibition, which is now set to take place between July and September, according to the "Immersive van Gogh" website.

"We started to hear all of the other arts organizations in town and across Ontario and really across Canada have ceased operations and arts workers are losing their jobs," Ross tells CTV News. " … And that motivated us even more, we had to figure out a way that we can open this show."

The brainchild of digital art center Atelier des Lumières, "Immersive van Gogh" debuted in Paris last year, drawing more than two million visitors. Creative director Massimiliano Siccardi and composer Luca Longobardi worked with local companies to bring the show to Toronto, per a statement.

As Naomi Rea writes for artnet News, the show is one of many blockbuster digital experiences that have taken the art world by storm in recent years—but whose future is threatened if people no longer are able to gather in large groups.

In the show, high-resolution shots of van Gogh paintings are projected onto the walls and floors of large industrial spaces. A soundtrack including crashing waves and contemporary music accompanies the display, which moves through many of van Gogh's famous periods, reported Bríd Stenson for the Guardian last year. Viewers get an up-close view of the yellowed brushstrokes of Sunflowers (1888), the chaotic swirls of The Starry Night (1889) and the intense gaze of van Gogh's self-portraits.

"It's not that you just walk in and see the display of his paintings. That, you can see in a museum," Dvoretsky tells CBC News. "What our artists have done with this exhibit is they take you inside the painting. ... They're trying to show us their version of how the story is born in the mind of the genius."

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