Arts and Entertainment

Instagram-ready ‘immersive’ Van Gogh shows have swept the US. Now, one has arrived in Anchorage.

Beyond Van Gogh, projection, art, immersive, Dena'ina Convention Center

A flurry of “immersive” Vincent Van Gogh shows debuted in dozens of cities across the U.S. last year, where in place of actual works by the Dutch painter, towering digital images of the artist’s work dance across exhibit halls.

The shows are put on by multiple vendors, sometimes in the same city at the same time, leading to some confusion. That prompted words of caution from the Better Business Bureau that ticket buyers should proceed carefully to ensure they bought tickets to the show they wanted.

Now, one has arrived in Anchorage. Opening Wednesday at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center, “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” happens to be the only Van Gogh exhibit running in Alaska, which should reduce the potential for confusion, organizers said.

Also, an official with the Better Business Bureau this week had high praise for the exhibit and its producer, Paquin Entertainment Group of Canada.

In the three-part show, the artist’s work rises close to 30-feet tall in the Dena’ina Center’s ground-floor exhibit hall. The show, accompanied by music and lasting about 40 minutes, features more than 300 Van Gogh pieces.

The exhibit focuses on the artist’s work and his craving for beauty as an antidote to the depression he faced, said the exhibit’s art historian, Fanny Curtat. It emphasizes those elements over the event he’s often remembered for, cutting off his ear in a fit of rage.

“He is known for mostly the struggles in his life, but his work is filled with light and solutions and ways to get out of this darkness, and a lot of people can relate to that,” Curtat said.

Last year, “Beyond Van Gogh” was one of five immersive exhibits touring the U.S. with similar names, sometimes baffling audiences. An exhibit in Seattle last year, different from the one in Anchorage with a different producer, also generated concerns when its opening was delayed.

“It wasn’t that there was fraud,” said Roseann Freitas, a spokeswoman with the Better Business Bureau in Alaska and Hawaii, on Monday. “But people had to be warned there are similar experiences and you need to make sure you know which one you are purchasing.”

The Paquin-produced show starting in Anchorage this week ran in Honolulu last year, Freitas said. “People raved about it,” she said. “It was as-advertised.”

Beyond Van Gogh, projection, art, immersive, Dena'ina Convention Center

Greg Spears, general manager for the Dena’ina and the older Egan convention center in Anchorage, said the Anchorage show is much larger in scale than a different immersive Van Gogh show held at the Anchorage Museum in 2016. That show was called “Van Gogh Alive — The Experience.”

Spears said entrance into the new exhibit will be paced, with limited amounts of people entering every 15 minutes. The large spaces at the Dena’ina Center won’t be a problem for people wanting to socially distance. Ticket sales have been strong, he said.

Janet Asaro, the museum’s chief communications officer, said the show at the museum eight years ago was “super popular,” with plenty of repeat visitors.

She said interest in the upcoming Van Gogh exhibit at the Dena’ina Center appears to be high. The museum’s old website for the Van Gogh show is getting a lot of traffic, apparently as people try to learn more about the new show, she said.

Spears, with the Dena’ina Center, said the Anchorage exhibit is part of a significant turnaround in activity at the city’s convention centers after the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 led to numerous canceled meetings and events.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.

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