Dallas media got its first peek this week at the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit opening Aug. 7 at the 80-year-old former Masonic Temple near the east end of downtown. The producers say they have already sold more than 100,000 tickets and are approaching a sellout of the show’s initial three-month run.
Being surrounded by moving images conjured from the iconic Dutch artist’s colorful, swirling paintings has become such a worldwide phenomenon that about a dozen different productions are on tour. Immersive Van Gogh is the first to land in Dallas.
“Dallas is a city that quickly accepts new forms of art and entertainment,” said Mark Shedletsky, co-founder of Impact Museums, one of two companies behind the exhibit. “We’re planting roots in Dallas.”
Shedletsky was referring to the 10-year lease that Impact and its partner, Lighthouse Immersive, have signed on the space, which they renamed Lighthouse Artspace Dallas. When Immersive Van Gogh is over, they plan to put on other immersive shows in the venue.
The 1941 building sits between the Cedars and Deep Ellum, not far from the Dallas Farmers Market, in an area that developers have dubbed the East Quarter.
The exhibit occupies three galleries of Lighthouse Artspace’s second floor, covering 14,000 square feet. In a 10-minute preview of the 40-minute show Tuesday, video projections created from several of Van Gogh’s best-known paintings, including Starry Night, unfurled along the walls and floors to rising, anthemic music.
The show uses 100 projectors and miles of fiber optic wire to convey these video installations, the producers said. The imagery was created by Italian video artist and former dancer Massimiliano Siccardi, who has been working in the field of immersive shows for three decades.
Via Zoom from the Immersive Van Gogh show in Toronto, which takes place in the old printing press room of the Toronto Star newspaper, Lighthouse Immersive president Corey Ross called Siccardi “the Steven Spielberg of immersive.” Lighthouse Immersive and Impact Museums have a 10-year deal with Siccardi for future shows.
“I came to the project as a fan of the Paris show, which I saw before the pandemic,” Ross said. “It’s a unique genre, a marriage of art exhibiting and a new way of filmmaking … The idea is to get inside the mind of Van Gogh, the emotional and the psychological. It happens all around you.”
The show’s American creative director is David Korins, who has been nominated for three Tony Awards for scenic design of a musical, including Hamilton.
“There is plenty of video on Broadway and plenty of immersive experiences,” he said via Zoom from the Los Angeles version of the exhibit at the former flagship Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. “But I haven’t done anything this video heavy and this immersive on this scale.”
Immersive Van Gogh was originally scheduled to open in mid-June. Some ticket buyers have reported difficulty getting refunds or a new date to attend. Shedletsky said the delay was caused primarily by the time it has taken to secure building permits. Ross said previously that supply-chain issues caused by the pandemic were to blame.
The show will be open 10 to 12 hours per day and can accommodate 220 attendees per hour. They can stay as long as they want, Shedletsky said, watching the show over and over again.
A second show produced by one of the other companies taking advantage of the artist’s popularity, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, is scheduled to open Aug. 19 at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Coincidentally, an exhibit of Van Gogh’s “olive grove” painting series is coming to the Dallas Museum of Art in October.
Patrons will first enter through the lobby of Lighthouse Artspace, which includes a bar with themed drinks. In the future, the producers plan to build a restaurant in the basement and complete a rooftop deck with spectacular views of downtown.
“We’re not only out to entertain but to teach — the man, the brand, the intellectual property,” Shedletsky said. To that end, school groups will be brought to the show and local artists will be employed. He said charity partners will also be announced at the opening.