It’s amazing to think that Van Gogh’s work during his lifetime was essentially worthless. “According to the legend,” says the production team behind the Imagine Van Gogh exhibition, “when Van Gogh could not repay a debt, he knocked on the creditor’s door and offered a wheelbarrow full of his paintings. Unimpressed, the creditor sent him away with his paintings. The creditor’s wife then said to her husband: “You could at least have kept the wheelbarrow!” “
But now the work of the late Dutch artist is so precious that it deserves traveling exhibitions around the world. And the masses marvel at it, so intrigued that they want to not only see it, but also fully immerse themselves in it. Fortunately, the latest Boston exhibition allows it. Unlike most, this one has no center or periphery, just a large open space inside the massive SoWa power station. The paintings and illustrations are presented as grandiose projections with subtle movement, as if the works were observing the viewer, rather than the other way around. And in the background, classical music that perfectly matches the story that the imagery is trying to tell. As a result, each experience is unique, guided by the senses and emotional intelligence of each viewer. Some circulate the space to get a more literal sense of his vagabond life – oscillating between Brussels, London, Amsterdam, Paris and in, before landing in an asylum in the south of France (which is, in fact, l ‘place where he created his masterpiece The starry Night in 1889) – while others rest in a more passive exploration.
Either way, the immersive exhibit feels like a stroll through the life and legacy of one of the greats – who, arguably, anyone would have gladly accepted a canvas (or a wheelbarrow) today.
Imagine Van Gogh is now playing in Boston (550 Harrison Ave) through March 19, with openings in Buenos Aires in February, Tacoma on March 5, and London and Ontario in the fall.