The luminous Imagine Van Gogh exhibit has recently arrived to Boston and is currently enrapturing viewers with its ingenuitive remastering of the nineteenth century artist’s portfolio. Annabelle Mauger, a native of frame and the director of the light-show, rendered this show together with both her sharp creative mind, as well as a strong sense of reverence for Van Gogh’s work, “I have a specific passion for Van Gogh- I was living in the south of France. I decided to do this exhibition of the last two years of Vincent Van Gogh because he was in France. The first goal of this exhibition was to show the province to all the people who were living there, through the eyes of Vincent.” It’s clear from the delivery of her vision that Mauger has succeeded. She’s molded a show that’s truly breathtaking and nearly heartstopping to those who view it.
Mauger was highly specific on the intent of the show as being “not an academy, not a classic exhibition, it’s not a retrospective of Van Gogh’s work, it is an immersive exhibition.” The origin of this sort of style of artistic commemoration actually originated within Mauger’s family, “This concept was created by someone called Albert Plécy, who was my grandfather in law-For Plécy- the most important thing was to fragment all the images, in particular the painting.” The style magnifies details of the work, allowing for a more enhanced look at the smaller specific nuances to Van Gogh’s style that could be lost in viewing the painting as a wider whole.
The show itself has a simple setup, but stellar execution. Past the main entry point, there is a decently sized room with hanging signs that highlight and break down passages of Van Gogh’s life and his artistic influences, as well as giving info on the exhibit’s creators and crew. Around the corner from there is the main exhibit. Encompassing a single hall of eighteen walled screens that act as canvases for the light projectors. Mauger brought an impressive number of Van Gogh’s works to the exhibit, “We used 200 paintings of Van Gogh and almost 3000 pictures. You have to take pictures of every detail, that’s why we need so many.” The composition was integral to the setup process for Mauger, as it was the means to give it that particular feel, “you have to create the scenography, but then you have to create a scenario. And this scenario every 20 seconds is changing. When you have more than 20 screens, you have to take care of the dialogue between the paintings and to take care of how it works.”
The light-show exhibit was Mauger’s directorial debut in 2008, starting and starring various cities throughout Europe over the last 13 years, but this is the first time it has made its way to the U.S. While it holds no physical or historical copies of Van Gogh’s original work, the show brings an inventive flair in its manner of highlighting the detail Van Gogh’s work is beloved for. Mauger detailed this sort of phenomenal venue setup is anything but easy to achieve, “We have to be really careful. There are 57 video projectors on here for the exhibition because I really wanted all the people to see the details. The floor is so important. This is why you need that many video projectors.” Her work is near spotless, with certain spots of the hall’s projectors blending so well that it swallows the shadow of wandering onlookers. To Mauger, the grand size of the exhibition room was not a creative choice, but a necessity, “As far as big, it’s a very large venue. I didn’t design a rectangle for the exhibition. It’s more of a maze. There are walls and corners because it helps to create a dialogue between all the paintings.” Mauger’s Labyrinth is certainly easy to become lost in, but more for its majestic and immersive highlighting of Van Gogh’s work than anything else.
On the subject of her favorite art piece amongst the presented works of Van Gogh, Mauger answered “The Starry Night is my favorite.” She elaborated further on the context of that particular painting and why it embodies the strength of both Van Gogh’s painting style and his perspective, “When you read all the letters Van Gogh sent to his brother, Theo; he really explained that he worked so hard on this painting. For him it was really important to show in this painting all the details of the life he had there and what he was seeing during the night.” Given Mauger is also from France, she also wove in a slight special addition to Starry night’s part of the show, “you will see of course the painting of Van Gogh, but then you will see a picture. I took this picture in the south of France in my garden. I thought it was approximately what the sky looked like when Van Gogh looked at it.”
Mauger elaborated on the necessity of public accessibility for this exhibit. To have the exhibit be exclusive to a select few would be in complete contrast to the theme of Van Gogh’s works, “When (Van Gogh) painted a chair, it was not an imperial chair, it was a regular chair. When he painted the people he painted the peasants-I’m sure that’s why people love so much; his painting. This contact with reality.” The works of Van Gogh were not meant to depict the noble class of centuries past or to be hoarded solely for the eyes of the most wealthy, but to be viewed and enjoyed by people of modest means.
Many these days are still reluctant to attend public functions, but Mauger offered solid reassurances to why people should come to the show, “during the last two years, this exhibition was still open while every museum was closed. This kind of exhibition is a cultural weapon against the covid, self-isolation. When you’re in a museum, you have to be quiet. You can’t move. Here you know you can talk, you can bring your friend.” While Van Gogh might never have ever set eyes on the Bay of Boston, his art is already fitting perfectly into this city of art appreciators and hearty spirits.