Got To “Gogh” On A Lovely Date

When the pandemic started and it looked as if Mark and I were going to have to change our wedding plans, one of the options we discussed was eloping to Toronto to get married at the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit. Unfortunately, the subsequent lockdown cancelled those plans, but we still really wanted to go.

I had seen a Van Gogh exhibit at the National Art Gallery of Canada many years prior, and although I had a handful of favourites, I was rather indifferent in my feelings towards his work. All of that changed when I became a Whovian. Those of you you have seen The Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor” will understand why. And then, when I started dating Mark, I fell for Vincent even more as Van Gogh is Mark’s favourite painter. So obviously, when we heard that Beyond Van Gogh was coming to Ottawa, we snatched up tickets immediately.

As far as COVID safety measures, the staff did a pretty good job at following and enforcing all of the usual guidelines. My only issue was that it was hard to keep six feet of distance between everyone there. And even if COVID hadn’t been a factor, I still would have loved if there were half as many people in the space, just so that we could have a little more freedom of movement without worrying about stepping into the frame of someone else’s photo.

Another potential issue is the price. An acquaintance of mine on social media complained that the price was far too steep. And although admission for two is pricier than, say, date night at a movie theatre, I didn’t think the tickets were that outrageously priced. Besides, once I was in the space and saw just how much work went into this, I was surprised the tickets didn’t cost more. Between the animators, all the electronics, voice actors, content writers, translators, music, the staff working there, and probably more, something like this must have employed A LOT of people. Really, the only thing that I though was outrageously priced was the merchandise in the gift shop – but over priced gift shop items aren’t exactly a surprise to anyone.

But no matter the price, this immersive experience was worth every penny.

To start, guests weave in through open corridors of empty frames and lit up signs displaying information about Van Gogh. This education section shares quotes from letters, a timeline of events, and facts about this infamous painter. And each of these signs were covered in blown up images of Van Gogh’s work so that you could marvel at each individual brushstroke. And this was just a taste of things to come.

Words cannot describe what it’s like being in the main space, and the photos do not do it justice. The walls and floor are lit up by projectors and covered in Van Gogh’s works. Not only do you feel like you are standing inside the paintings, but the artwork comes alive. The paintings have been animated so that they are no longer still images, and they flow seamlessly through equally breathtaking transitions. I have to applaud the animators because they clearly studied the artwork very carefully. Even the moving parts of the images look as if Vincent painted them, and nothing feels like it does not belong in its respective painting.

Both Mark and I cried. We didn’t want to leave.

If you have the opportunity to see the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit, I highly recommend it. After finally seeing it in person, I am heartbroken that Mark and I were not able to elope to Toronto for our wedding, because nothing could be more romantic than getting married in the midst of this beauty. But I am so grateful that the exhibit came to Ottawa. It wasn’t a wedding, but we still had our romantic moment.

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