One of the most buzzed about exhibits, “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” opened at Armory Studios in Schenectady on Thursday.
With towering projections of Vincent van Gogh’s work, as well as prints, a drawing room, and a virtual reality experience to boot, the exhibit is expected to attract thousands during its run.
Presented by Exhibition Hub, along with Fever, it includes around 400 representations of the artist’s drawings and paintings. It’s one of several international van Gogh exhibitions on view around the world, many of which have similar names. There are a few things that set this one apart from the rest, according to John Zaller, the executive producer of Exhibition Hub.
“Ours really focuses on immersion and education,” Zaller said. “So from the minute you walk in, you’re fully immersed but we also create a series of galleries that . . . give you an in-depth immersion into the story of the artist, which is unique to us.”
The first few galleries that visitors will see are dedicated to telling the story of the artist’s life, including his family, friends and artistic inspirations. The Dutch post-impressionist painter, who lived from 1853 to 1890, wasn’t well known during his lifetime but has become one of the most widely-celebrated artists.
“He’s a rock star of the art world . . . and that, of course, is because of his work, which is highly accessible,” Zaller said. “It’s figurative; it has bold, brilliant colors and brushstrokes. It’s very relatable and his style really lends itself to this type of interpretation. You can see the movement in his work and then we have the good fortune of having the technology to bring that movement to life. Also, his personal story is incredibly compelling. So the way that we’ve set it up where you get to know him as well as his work, I think just furthers that interest and connection with him.”
Beyond the opening galleries about his life, the 35-minute projection display shows van Gogh’s artistic development, from with his earliest works to his last. It’s set to peaceful music and includes quotes from the artist. The exhibit at Armory Studios marks the premiere of this particular projection display.
“It’s the only place in the U.S. right now people can see this show,” Zaller said.
The virtual reality experience, which is in a separate gallery, also sets “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” apart, according to Zaller. The multi-sensory experience guides the viewer along a journey on “a day in the life of the artist,” and includes scenes that inspired some of the artist’s most beloved works including “Bedroom at Arles,” and “Starry Night Over The Rhone River.”
It took about a month to install “The Immersive Experience” at Armory Studios. Everything from the exhibit walls to the lighting fixtures and projection equipment was brought in on 10 tractor-trailers.
“It’s just . . . a big production. We have 40 people that work on our crew and then we have another 40 or 50 that we hire locally. We are creating over 100 jobs in the market throughout our run,” Zaller said. “In terms of working with the Armory and the City of Schenectady, it’s been a pleasure.”
Several Schenectady entities came together with Armory Studios to make the exhibit happen from a logistical standpoint. Metroplex reserved over 200 parking spaces at the rear entrance to the Armory and the Schenectady County Legislature approved a resolution to provide a license agreement to use two county-owned lots for exhibit parking, which is free of charge for attendees. Discover Schenectady also created a landing page for the exhibit.
“Our new, dedicated landing page will help visitors and locals alike navigate newly-created parking closest to the Armory as well as find nearby restaurants, shops, and services, all designed to make their visit to Schenectady more enjoyable. For those traveling farther distances, hotel and lodging information is featured as well,” said Discover Schenectady Executive Director Todd Garofano in a statement.
With a timed entry system allowing new visitors every half an hour, organizers say the exhibit can host up to 1,000 visitors per day.
“I would love to see that number. The experience is really popular . . . [We’re] thrilled to bring it here to the upstate region, where there is so much focus on arts and culture and so many burgeoning artists who are up here doing their work. We’re excited to be a part of that,” Zaller said.
“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” will run through August 28. Standard admission tickets start at $32 for adults and $19 for children. The virtual reality experience is an additional $5. Discounted tickets are available for seniors, students, military veterans, families, and larger groups (over nine people).
Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and holidays; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Armory Studios is located at 125 Washington Ave.