By Marianne Salza
Imagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale will be on display now through March 19, at the SoWa Power Station for its U.S. premier in Boston. Created in France by Artistic Directors, Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron, the show welcomes guests to explore Southern France as perceived by the 19th century impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh.
“It is not a classic exhibition or a retrospective. It is an immersive exhibition,” explained Mauger, who has directed for over 20 years. “The most important thing was to fragment the images. In art history, a painting is a movement. If you put more movement in a painting, you are changing the painting. That’s not what I am doing. I am a director, not an artist. I am not choosing the same canvas. Image Totale is a vision of the paintings.”
Image Totale guides viewers to focus on the details of the works that Van Gogh painted in the last two years of his life. Mauger and Baron first presented the exhibition in 2008 in hopes that people could better interpret the Dutch artist who was misunderstood during his time.
“We chose this part of his painting life because we thought that Vincent decided to paint the people he loved in the Southern France landscape,” Mauger described. “When you look at the brush strokes, you will see the softness and sweetness. I am not sure that all people know that this man was just suffering; and not the mad man we are used to hearing.”
Image Totale is like wandering through a radiant dream, absorbed into Van Gogh’s paintings momentarily in the expansive 24,000-square-foot space of the SoWa Power Station. Initially, audiences can amble through a hall that provides information about the history of Van Gogh, and the show’s creators.
The expansive building was formerly a power station built in 1890 to provide electricity for the subway system until 1900. Mario Nicosia, President/Director of the SoWa Art District, purchased the property from the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) some 20 years ago. The Power Station was vacant for a century, until now.
“You needed a use that would keep the building open, as opposed to creating housing, office space, or retail. There was a demand for event space in Boston, so we restored the building for one big, open space,” said Nicosia. “Now the building is going to be used for interesting events. This building can’t be duplicated in the city. A lot of people are going to enjoy it.”
Image Totale has been a traveling exhibition for two years during the pandemic.
“We are considered by some health authorities to be a covid-proof activity,” added Producer Paul Dupont-Hébert. “Last year, we were in Vancouver, and we were the only cultural activity in Canada recommended by the Minister of Health. We care that our customers feel extremely comfortable here. This is done to make people happy and relax during a difficult period we live in.”
Dupont-Hébert blissfully described the arrival of couples who enter the winter exhibition quickly for reprieve from the biting air; and within ten minutes intimately hold each other nearer as they explore. He feels that Image Totale — accompanied by Schubert, Mozart, and Prokofiev pieces — inspires closeness because of its elegance and uniqueness.
“It is unbelievable,” Dupont-Hébert gushed. “It’s like life stops for that hour. You will live a moment of beauty and grace.”
Imagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition Image Totale — on display at the SoWa Power Station, 550 Harrison Avenue, South End, Boston — is a contactless experience with timed entries to ensure social distancing. Face masks are required upon entry, regardless of vaccination status. Tickets can be purchased at www.Imagine-VanGogh.com.