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Once in a while we hear about a special attraction or event in another country that captures our imagination so much that we just have to see it. The Carrieres de Lumieres exhibit, Van Gogh, Starry Night, which highlights the work of artist Vincent van Gogh, was so compelling that it drew us to a tiny town in France and has become one of our all-time favorite travel experiences. The immersive living-art exhibit was unlike anything we’d ever seen and was something we’ll never forget.

We want to share a few thoughts about the nature of this unique exhibit so that you, too, might be inspired to discover the magic of van Gogh in this transformative new way.

A Grand Yet Intimate Experience

The exhibition is located in Les Baux-de-Provence, France, inside a huge rock quarry that has been carved out to create great halls with immense walls and high ceilings; it can accommodate hundreds of people. The area is cavernous and dark at all times, and presentations take place from morning until night. It can be a bit chilly inside the venue, so we kept our sweaters handy.

Despite the crowds, the all-encompassing artwork, music, and movement of the projections draw you into your own private world. The people around you slowly fade away as you become part of van Gogh’s life, art, mystery, and moods.

The exhibit runs for 20 minutes and is accompanied by a second exhibit, Dreamed Japan, Images of a Floating World, which is also fascinating. We took our time and stayed through two showings of each exhibit so that we could really take in the experience and appreciate all the nuances of the shows.

Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

Getting To Know Van Gogh

While Sue had studied art, Diana had only basic knowledge of the artist and his work. However, we both enjoyed the exhibit and got to know van Gogh better, each in our own way.

Sue was able to see how van Gogh’s work flowed from his moods, the light around him, and the subjects he chose. Diana was able to see a much larger body of van Gogh’s work than she had before, which gave her a better appreciation of the different ways van Gogh used art to express his vision of the world and his inner life.

The immersive Van Gogh exhibit.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

Both of us were completely absorbed by the exhibit, as were the many people around us, most of whom, like us, stood mesmerized by the stunning display of van Gogh’s artistic genius. The exhibit features multiple halls, and you can wander around to find a spot that gives you the perspective you most enjoy. There were some moments where we stayed in one place and others where we moved around, depending on the mood and impressions affecting us at the time.

How Technology Enhances The Experience

We have been to events where technology intruded upon or overwhelmed the main subject. At the Carrieres de Lumieres, technology enhanced the exhibit and transformed it into a deeply moving experience unlike any other.

The well-chosen music appropriately accompanied the visuals. The artwork was projected onto the huge walls and columns of the dark, enclosed quarry, commanding our total attention and engulfing us in the experience.

One of the most impressive technical aspects of the show is that the artwork literally comes to life. The visuals are animated and continue moving and morphing from one piece to another. While this was tremendously effective in the van Gogh exhibit, it was also enthralling in the Japanese exhibit, as the stylized artwork blended together samurai warriors, geishas, fish, blossoms, waves, and other iconic images from Japanese art. We felt that we were appreciating art in new ways, and we loved that.

How To See The Exhibit For Yourself

Van Gogh, Starry Night runs through January 5, 2020, in Les Baux-de-Provence. But if you’re not able to get there in time, there are other options.

The exhibit space in Les Baux-de-Provence will be closed until March 6, 2020, when a new set of exhibits will take the place of those now running.

The upcoming exhibition on Monet, Renoir, and Chagall.

There is a similar exhibit making use of an old foundry in Paris, Atelier des Lumieres; it will present the same immersive experience as Les Baux-de-Provence until February 2020. Then two new exhibits -- one centering on the art of Monet, Renoir, and Chagall, and the other on Yves Klein -- will begin.

Culturespaces, the French museum management company responsible for these spectacular multimedia shows, is planning to open a new venue, Bassins de Lumieres, in Bordeaux, France, in the spring of 2020. It will be located in a renovated German submarine bunker.

Another possibility is to visit the Bunker de Lumieres in Jeju, South Korea. At this venue, you will have a little more time to catch Van Gogh, Starry Night, which is paired with an exhibit on Paul Gauguin. The two exhibits will run through October 25, 2020.

Vincent Van Gogh's signature.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

Travel provides so many wonderful experiences that expand our horizons. The magic of van Gogh comes to life as never before through the immersive experience offered by Carrieres de Lumieres. This all-encompassing multisensory exhibit offers guests the opportunity to create their own personal relationship with art and the artist in a new and meaningful way. We made a special trip to see the exhibit, and we will treasure its enchantment for many years to come.

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