Beyond Van Gogh review: An exhibit worth ‘Gogh-ing’ to

Students share tips on visiting the Van Gogh exhibit


Emily Early

People gather to see the exhibit at “Beyond Van Gogh: The immersive experience.”

Pulling up to the parking lot of the St. Louis Galleria, most would not expect to see an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh’s life stationed there for the winter. Packed into a tent on the Galleria Parkway is a popular traveling show, “Beyond Van Gogh: The immersive experience,” only 16 minutes away from school. The exhibit opened Oct. 1 and will remain open until Jan. 30. Designed by creative director Mathieu St-Arnaud and his team at Montreal’s Normal Studio, the show is roughly an hour long and exhibits over 300 paintings. We were surprised they could fit so much into an hour, but they accomplished it without the exhibit feeling too packed with paintings.

The exhibit does involve flashing and moving light, so it can be uncomfortable for those with photosensitive epilepsy and those prone to sensory overload. It is friendly to those who are d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as most of the show is visual. The website recommends consulting a medical examiner if you are concerned about something in the show beforehand. This wasn’t hard to find on the website. The health safety and inclusivity are great to see and always gives a show a plus on our list.

Prices for other age groups can be found on the website. Tickets for a basic timed entry for people 16 or older cost from $36.99 to $46.99 depending on the day you attend. As for people ages 5-15 (Hint, hint, students under 16!), tickets are $24.99. Upon first sight, we were surprised by the price, and even looking back at the price after going, we still agree that it’s overpriced. Art museums and movie theaters usually cost around $10 in the U.S. and are able to capture our attention for longer, so the price was definitely unexpected. Nevertheless, the exhibit is very popular and there were definitely a lot of people there when we visited who must have thought it was worth the price. That being said, if you have the money to go, it’s definitely worth paying a visit.

Hall of Information
Though the first part of this experience is less exciting than the slideshow of Van Gogh’s work that follows, this feature allows exhibit-goers to get a better glimpse into Van Gogh’s life.

Frames hang from the ceiling to create a walkway around plaques of information about Vincent van Gogh’s life. (Emily Early)

Around 15 large glowing screens displayed background information, such as letters from Van Gogh to his brother and inspirational quotes with elements of his artwork as the background of the text. It was so cool to walk around and learn more about Van Gogh’s life. There was more to the text than just about his artwork, which was about as much as we’ve ever known about him. The text is written in both English and Spanish, creating a more inclusive show (Yay!). Large empty gold frames hang from the ceiling, acting as a creative and elegant way to organize the space (while also adding a fun place to take photos perfect for your Instagram posts, which we loved).

Though it provided information about the art, for those more interested in seeing the main attraction, we don’t fault you for turning your cheek (or ear) and walking past it. There were parts that dragged on slightly, especially because we were so excited to see the real shining star of the show. Although we could reminisce on this all day, we have to leave some information to the show to share, so we would recommend a visit to learn more about Van Gogh and his life.

Animated Experience
Before the full attraction, a five minute projection of thematic colors and animations of Van Gogh illuminated a wall that led into the hallway before the larger room. Honestly, this part was somewhat confusing. It seemed to be pushed back into the corner of the tent, and we’re not sure why. The projection also didn’t seem to be all of his artwork, some were just lights in a pattern. It seemed to be just a smaller version of the bigger video loop, so we’re still not entirely sure what the point of it was.

An image of the projection pictures Vincent van Gogh’s artwork transitioning from black and white to color. (Anna Claywell)

Walking into the biggest part of the attraction may seem overwhelming at first, but it was truly mesmerizing. Eyes were drawn to the projection, which covered the floor, walls and dividers in the middle. Instrumental and somewhat jazzy music, such as Keith Kenniff’s “Even now” (thanks, “Shazam”) quietly played in the background, which we loved. The music definitely added to the feeling of “stepping into the painting.” A faint voice played under the music. We’re still not sure if it was a tour guide recording, but it was unintelligible over the chatter and music. That was definitely something we wish we could have heard. It’d be cool to hear more about the paintings on display or even more about the period in his life in which he painted them. Looking up, the projectors and speakers aren’t too noticeable and blend into the black vaulted ceiling, which is a nice touch. We appreciated the attention to detail, for sure.

The projection started with an animation of a black and white outline drawing of Van Gogh’s works. The chalk effect of the art soon faded to the colorized versions of his paintings, which were just brilliantly animated. More of his life’s work faded in and out for a 35-minute projection. The art was surreal, everyone around us was taking pictures and marveling at the work, us included.

Further animated portions of the art were added into the experience, such as birds flying, people in portraits blinking and windmills turning (Props to the special effects team!). Transitions between paintings were clean and undisruptive, with nice touches, such as the spiral effect of the famous “Starry Night” swirling one piece into another. There were definitely some memorable moments, such as (spoiler alert!) when a cherry blossom tree’s petals completely covered the room, fluttering in every direction. It was gorgeous and video-worthy, for sure. You could tell that a lot of work was put into this portion of the exhibit, it was definitely the star of the show. Overall, the presentation was bewitching, and we’re already considering “gogh-ing” once more before they close.

Gift shop

An image featuring posters for sale in the gift shop. (Anna Claywell)

Last, but sadly, least, is the gift shop. The tickets, while pricey, are somewhat understandable and definitely overall worth it, but the gift shop prices were certainly a lot. To be fair for those interested, they do have lots of beautiful merchandise of (seemingly) high quality, such as posters, mugs and shirts. And although the price is high, you don’t feel forced to buy anything, in fact, the shop feels more like a mini-exhibit in itself. We enjoyed looking at the merchandise, and probably would have bought some if it weren’t for the prices.

COVID-19 procedures
With any public place, it is important to be aware of COVID-19. The website states that the “walk-through exhibition… allows for six feet [of] distance between all attendees, and includes increased cleaning practices.” The majority of visitors were masked, and all employees were as well. After visiting, we feel like the six-foot rule was more of a suggestion and varied depending on those who were there. Overall, we feel they respected COVID-19 pretty well, although there weren’t strict guidelines.

The main attraction was executed almost to perfection while the other portions of the exhibit could be improved, such as the prices of tickets and merchandise. Overall, we rate this a 9 out of 10 “Starry Night” stars. We definitely recommend a visit to this exhibit.