Van Gogh swirls to life in San Francisco

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Clementine Cunningham

Local artist, Sarah Ricchiuti, observes the projections at the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit San Francisco. “The exhibit succeeded in letting visitors see the world through the eyes of Van Gogh. I watched [the presentation] three times,” Ricchiuti said.

Bright blues and sunny yellows swirl around the room as visitors sit mesmerized as Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork swims across the walls of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in San Francisco

Since its opening last March, the attraction has garnered the attention of many. The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit offers a unique way to view some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.

Walking into the exhibit, visitors step into Goh’s paintings. They can wander through the sunlight of “Wheat Field with Crows” and the glimmering lights of  “The Starry Night.” 

The exhibit uses projectors to cast his paintings onto the walls of the cavernous venue. Most remarkably, the artwork is animated and arranged in a presentation accompanied by music.   

“I like the painting with irises. First, the green stems came up and then the flowers, and it looked like the whole room was blossoming,” said Julia Williams, a visitor. 

Visitors detailed pleasant experiences at the event and were dazzled by the vividness of the art. 

 “Van Gogh saw the world in such vibrant light even though he struggled with depression. His paintings are so colorful,” said Sarah Ricchiuti, a local artist. 

 Van Gogh uses the impasto technique to give his paintings a 3D effect. This technique offers visitors a sense of how much paint Van Gogh was using, even on a flat surface of the walls. 

 “My own paintings are 3D, and I want paintings that you can go into. With the immersive exhibit, you are painting with Van Gogh,” said Ricchiuti. 

According to Van Gogh Exhibit San Francisco, 60,6000 frames of video were used to animate Van Gogh’s paintings. The exhibit’s creator, Massimiliano Siccardi, worked with Vittorio Guidotti, the Creative Director of Animation, to create the swirling brushstrokes. Van Gogh’s famous brushstrokes can clearly be seen thanks to the 90 million pixels in the projection.

Music accompanies the projections and flows with the paintings and allow viewers to feel Van Gogh’s emotions through his art.  

The playlist includes artists like Edith Piaf, Blavatsky, and George Handel, which enhances the immersive nature of the exhibition. Luca Longobardi was the leading composer for the exhibit.

“I thought the added music made it a whole lot more intriguing. It captured my attention. The playlist was very well put together,” said Ruth Casab, a sophomore at Carlmont High School. 

 The Van Gogh exhibit began in Paris, where it garnered 2 million visitors before expanding to locations worldwide, such as San Francisco. Ricchiuti was heartened to see so many people coming to an exhibit on Van Gogh. 

“As an artist, seeing other people experience art is very moving. It’s reassuring in this crazy world that people still love art,” said Ricchiuti.

The immersive exhibit in San Francisco will be open through Jan. 3, 2022, at the SVN West.