Saturday, February 13, 2021

Review: Make Staring at the Walls Fun Again with the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Chicago

Now Extended By Popular Demand Through September 6th


All photos by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara


REVIEW:

By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Tired of staring at the walls during this endless pandemic? Maybe you just need new walls. There's a bright spot in the dearth of cultural outings and offerings in Chicago. In fact it's not just a bright spot, but a whole bright ballroom with multiple vintage rooms just dripping, pulsing and vibrating with masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh. A panoply of iconic art plays across the floors and walls of Chicago's landmark Germania Club Building, accompanied by a soaring soundtrack, including pieces with apropos names like "Pictures at an Exhibition". Check out the Spotify Playlist HERE. (Musical concept and composition by Luca Longobardi.)

Circles of light ensure that everyone has socially distanced space to enjoy the spectacle and strategically placed towers of mirrors ensure there's not a bad spot in the space. We loved that people were sitting, standing, lounging and even lying down in their spots of light, to take in the production. Fades to black and minimalist moments, as the artworks seep, spin and melt, keep this exhibit from feeling like a rave or an overwhelming assault on the senses. Instead, the combination of music and art in motion, is meditative, healing and exhilarating. 

It's a site specific melding that fits together astonishing well. In fact, the wall molding, arches, pillars and doorways working with Van Gogh's art was one of our favorite elements of the exhibit. We enjoyed the motion effects of smoke and steam rising from still pictures. 

We also loved the time lapse painted flowers, proliferating to fill the vaulted ceiling space, in a magnificent bouquet.  In a season where the arts are struggling, it's a joy to get out of the house and see something uplifting in person. 

Concerned about covid? It was a welcome relief to see temp checks and hand sanitizer at the door and distancing dots along the queue to enter the space. Masks are mandatory and even the bathrooms had virus safety measures in place. The hour-long, walk-through experience has been designed with health and safety as a priority. Capacity will be limited in accordance with the City of Chicago’s safety protocols. Additional safety precautions include touchless ticket-taking, social distancing markers throughout the venue, and digitally projected social distancing circles on the gallery floors to ensure appropriate spacing. All guests must wear a face covering at all times during their visit to Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago.  

I've been a lifelong fan of Van Gogh's works, and back when international travel was easy, I was thrilled to explore The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Certainly this exhibit is an entirely different experience than seeing Van Gogh's works in person, somewhat like the blockbuster version of a favorite novel, different yet engrossing, and well worth experiencing. It may be months before we can sit shoulder to shoulder with strangers in traditional theatre spaces, or meander through packed art galleries. In the meantime, we're thrilled that the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Chicago has managed to pivot and present a visually stunning, in person production amid a pandemic. This hour of fun just might feed your art starved soul for days. We highly recommend the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Chicago for all ages. Go already!

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: ChiILLiveShows.com (adult) & ChiILMama.com (family friendly). 

Musical concept and composition by Luca Longobardi. Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is an immersive show directed by Massimiliano Siccardi and produced by Lighthouse Immersive Arts, Visioni Eccentriche, Starvox Exhibits and Showone Productions.

Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, a new venue within Chicago’s recently renovated landmark Germania Club Building, announced that due to popular demand the U.S. premiere of the blockbuster art experience Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit will extend its dates through Labor Day after having sold out the initial block of tickets. The Exhibit will open one hour earlier at 9 a.m. and will offer Saturday afternoon VIP and Premium tickets in February and March. Tickets are currently on sale at vangoghchicago.com and by phone at 844-307-4644. 

Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, a three-story facility located at 108 W. Germania Place, is dedicated to immersive art presentations, merging the boundaries between entertainment and culture to give visitors the sense that they are encountering art as never before. Utilizing the building’s Victorian Era architectural details, 35-foot-tall walls and multiple levels (including balconies), the venue will present vibrant immersive art exhibitions that surround the viewer on all sides.

The venue’s first presentation, Immersive Van Gogh, is a visually spectacular digital art exhibition that recently received widespread critical acclaim during its debut in Toronto. Immersive Van Gogh invites audiences to “step inside” the iconic works of post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh, evoking his highly emotional and chaotic inner consciousness through art, light, music, movement and imagination. The Italian creative team who pioneered digital experiences in Paris will create a custom design to fit the gracious Neo-Classical architecture of the exhibition’s Chicago home.  

Immersive Van Gogh was designed by creative director and Italian film producer Massimiliano Siccardi, with original, mood-setting music by Italian multimedia composer Luca Longobardi, who provided a score that combines experimental electronic music with pure, ethereal and simple-seeming piano. Vittorio Guidotti is the Art Director. Siccardi and Longobardi are both pioneers of immersive digital art experiences in Paris, where they were part of the team that created the world-renowned Van Gogh, Starry Night exhibition, among others. With more than 50 projectors illuminating over 14,000 square-feet, visitors to Immersive Van Gogh will be encircled from head-to-toe in Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and colors, including animated details from works such as Self Portrait with Felt Hat (1888), The Bedroom in Arles (1889), Irises (1889) and The Starry Night (1889).  

“Immersive Van Gogh is a new way of encountering art, as it quite literally surrounds viewers on all sides with the brilliant work of one of the greatest painters of all time,” said Immersive Art Space Co-Producer Corey Ross. “Both connoisseurs and new admirers of Van Gogh’s work are guaranteed a breathtaking perspective on the influential artist’s oeuvre. Merging state-of-the-art technology, theatrical storytelling, animation and some of the finest works of art ever created, Immersive Van Gogh is a uniquely mesmerizing experience that seemingly transports the viewer into the artist’s mind to see these timeless works as never before.” 

“Despite being unknown throughout his life, Van Gogh’s artwork has created a lasting impact through its emotional richness and simple beauty,” said Massimiliano Siccardi, Immersive Van Gogh designer. “Both myself and Luca Longobardi are very excited to visit Chicago and once again bring Van Gogh’s legacy to life in a way that is unique to the beautiful architecture of the Germania Club Building.”

The premiere of Immersive Van Gogh, which opened in Toronto this past July, has already received rave reviews from critics around the world. The Toronto Sun pronounced it, “intense and emotional, cathartic and liberating” and Debra Yeo of the Toronto Star reflected, “I wondered: could projections of paintings on walls and floors be thrilling? The answer is yes.” Called “dazzling” by Lonely Planet and a “blockbuster digital experience that has taken the art world by storm” by artnet news, the exhibition can be summed up by CTV’s description, “a completely new way of encountering art.” Immersive Van Gogh has already been enjoyed by more than 180,000 guests since its debut in Toronto during the pandemic in July 2020. During July and August 2020, according to Ticketmaster, it has surpassed worldwide ticket sales for any of the ticketing platform’s live cultural events.

Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago is operated by Immersive Art Space LP, a partnership between co-producers Corey Ross, Svetlana Dvoretsky, Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis. The venue also will feature a merchandise/gift shop and café. Future plans include additional immersive art shows as well as live performances. 

Ticket prices start at $39.99 for adults ($24.99 for children 16 or younger) with untimed and flexible ticket options available. Beginning Saturday, Jan. 30, tickets will be on sale Feb. 11 through Sept. 6, 2021. The venue is easily accessible by public transportation and has ample parking in the nearby James House parking garage. For more information about Immersive Van Gogh, visit vangoghchicago.com or call 844-307-4644.  Follow the exhibition on social media at @vangoghchicago on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 


About Vincent van Gogh 

Legendary Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) is recognized as one of the world’s greatest and best loved artists. He was born in the Netherlands to his father, Theodorus van Gogh, and his mother, Anna Cornelia Carbentus, a moody artist whose love of nature, drawing and watercolors was passed on to her son. He worked at his uncle Cornelis’ art dealership when he had already been fluent in French, German and English, as well as his native Dutch. He fell in love with English culture when he was transferred to the Groupil Gallery in London in 1873.

During his short life he painted more than 2,000 artworks ranging from ordinary household items and self-portraits to surreal landscapes that inspire awe. Van Gogh was a post-Impressionist painter whose work — notable for its beauty, emotion and color — highly influenced expressionism in 20th-century art. He struggled with mental illness and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life.

He was tragically admitted to a psychiatric hospital after offering his severed ear to a woman at a local brothel. For hope, he turned to painting and nature, until one day when he went out to paint in the morning with a loaded pistol in his hand and reportedly shot himself in the chest. In his 37 years alive, Van Gogh only sold one painting, The Red Vineyards, to his brother Theo.

About the Producers and Creative Team 

MASSIMILIANO SICCARDI, Artistic Creator

Massimiliano studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance of London. But in 1990, he left the world of dance to begin a new journey in the world of video art. Massimiliano quickly became the artistic force behind several visual mise-en-scène for choreographers around the world. He also created video scenographies for numerous prestigious festivals and galas around the world. He also re-constructed the video mapping of the Basilica di Giotto and for the Teatro Petruzzelli of Bari, where one of his permanent installation’s virtually reconstruct the frescoes of the Cupola. Massimiliano is also a celebrated photographer and has had photo exhibitions in Spoleto and Rome, to name a few. He is professor of digital image elaboration at the Accademia di Comunicazione e Immagine of Rome. In 2012 Massimiliano received the prestigious International Award “Romaindanza” for his talent in the visual work of dance theatre. Since 2012, he has been artist in residence at the Carrières de Lumières - Atelier des Lumières where he authored the mise-en-scène of numerous immersive shows. He is currently creating projects within Italy as well as New York, Berlin, Leipzig and Rome.

LUCA LONGOBARDI, Composer

Italian composer and pianist Luca Longobardi is a classically trained musician who incorporates the contemporary electronic music into his pieces. Born in 1976, Longobardi studied classical music in Italy and New York and went on to earn his doctorate in digital audio restoration in Rome in 2011. His works reveal a strong interaction between classical and contemporary music. The experience he has gained as a theatre musician has increased his interest in the relationship between sounds and spectacle; he has composed music for ballets and films and accompanied installations and experimental art productions (Atelier de Lumières - Paris, Carrière des Lumières - Baux-de-Provence, Kunstkraftwerk - Leipzig). At his multimedia performances and in his recordings, strong experimental electronic music meets pure, ethereal and simple-seeming piano playing that nevertheless relays deep emotions.

COREY ROSS, Co-Producer

Founded in Toronto in 2003 by Corey Ross, Starvox Entertainment has ranked in Profit Magazine’s Fastest growing Canadian companies for 5 years in a row. Starvox produces, manages, represents and promotes cross-over performing arts shows and exhibitions that tour Canada, the United States and internationally. Ross has produced multiple theatrical shows in Chicago including the Harry Potter parody Potted Potter, Evil Dead The Musical, Champions of Magic and Sherlock Holmes. In Las Vegas, Ross produces three shows for Caesars Entertainment—Wow, Extravaganza and Potted Potter.  In the world of art exhibitions, Ross produces the Art of Banksy in London, Canada, the USA and Taiwan, as well as Immersive Van Gogh and Illusionarium in Toronto.

SVETLANA DVORETSKY, Co-Producer

Toronto’s Show One Productions was founded in 2004 by the enterprising Russian born impresario Svetlana Dvoretsky. Initially focused on classical music, the company has since expanded greatly and is now a leading presenter of high-profile International artists, symphony orchestras, theatre and dance companies and special projects. The company is especially proud of its presentations of Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Malkovich, Michel Legrand, Slava’s Snow Show, Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Vladimir Spivakov and the Moscow Virtuosi, Eifman Ballet, the Vakhtangov Theatre, opera stars sopranos Sondra Radvanovsky and Hibla Gerzmava, and the late baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Trio Magnifico Opera Gala – the historic union and once-in-a-lifetime event at The Four Seasons Opera House of soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Yusif Eyvazov in their Toronto debuts, with Hvorostovsky in his last Toronto appearance – remains an exceptional musical memory in the history of the performing arts in Canada. Dvoretsky is a proud recipient of the Order of York by the Government of Canada for “an outstanding contribution in art and culture.”

MARIA SHCLOVER and IRINA SHABSHIS, Co-Producers

New York-based Maestro Immersive Arts is the latest creative venture by Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis, in partnership with Lighthouse Immersive (Canada) to introduce the immersive art genre in major markets across the United States. 

Shclover is a classically trained pianist who later became a finance and international business professional, after graduating from NYU Stern School of Business. With extensive finance experience under her belt, Shclover founded Maestro Artist Management in 2004 that initially concentrated on presenting classical music and special events.  

Shabshis joined Maestro Artist Management in 2005, with a classical music background and vast computer science experience. Maestro Artist Management focused on providing a bespoke experience to international artists and over the years became one of the leading boutique artist management companies that presented international tours of such legendary classical musicians as Yuri Bashmet, Olga Kern, Denis Matsuev, Mischa Maysky, Vadim Repin, Vladimir Spivakov and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Together, the company presented more than 1,000 events and sold more than 700,000 tickets, working with international stars such as Michel Legrand, John Malkovich, Mikhail Baryshnikov and many others. As a presenter of some of the world’s best talent in the international performing arts, the company closely collaborated and partnered with some of the most prestigious art organizations, such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, The Metropolitan Opera and various Broadway productions. 

In 2012, Shclover and Shabshis formed a non-profit organization, Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation, to introduce international theatrical projects and acclaimed performers to American audiences. Festival has been a summer staple in New York and beyond, and received rave reviews from critics and audiences, welcoming such prominent international companies and projects as Gesher Theatre (Israel), John Malkovich and the international cast of Giacomo Variations (Austria), The Theatre of Nations (Russia), Vakhtangov State Theatre (Russia), Jaunais Rīgas Teātris (Latvia), Tango Fire Dance Company (Argentina), Rafael Amargo Flamenco Company (Spain), The Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra (Russia), Max Raabe & Palast Orchester (Germany), Theatre-Atelier Piotr Fomenko (Russia) and many more. In 2018, Shclover and Shabshis founded yet another venture, the Russian Film Week USA, an annual showcase of both independent and artistic films that represent the dynamic landscape of Russian filmmaking today. The festival received a resounding welcome from critics and audiences, and is continuing through January 29, 2021.  

 



ChiIL Mama ChiILin' at 
Immersive Van Gogh Chicago





















All photos by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

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