Life imitates art in Van Gogh Airbnb posting from Art Institute of Chicago

Leo Burnett Chicago's real-life mock-up of "The Bedroom" is now available for sleepovers

Admirers of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh can spend the night inside one of his creations. Leo Burnett Chicago replicated van Gogh’s "The Bedroom" in an apartment in downtown Chicago and posted it on Airbnb as part of a campaign to promote the iconic 1888-1889 trio of paintings, which will be at the nearby Art Institute of Chicago beginning on Valentine’s Day.

The single subject — the artist’s room for a short time in the South of France — is painted at different times and at different places, chronicling Van Gogh’s deteriorating mood and mental health. This is the first time all three paintings will be together in North America; to commemorate the exhibit, the Art Institute approached Leo Burnett Chicago, an agency it had worked with for five years.

"There was no better way to let people inside his mind and his life and his art more than this room, so why not let people live in this room literally and get that immersive experience?" said Pete Lefebvre, associate creative director at Leo Burnett.

Van Gogh's Bedroom

Chicago, IL, United States
This room will make you feel like you're living in a painting. It's decorated in a Post-Impressionist style, reminiscent of Southern France and times gone by. Its furniture, bright colors, and artw...
Vacation Rentals in Chicago

For its part, Airbnb embraced the idea. "They’re really known for trying to give people more than a cot and four walls," Lefebvre said. "They seem to be trying to give people an experience. It really made perfect sense, almost like a perfect marriage."

Leo Burnett Chicago worked with an established partner, accommodation service provider BridgeStreet, to locate a suitable apartment about a mile from the museum, in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago, home to many of the galleries and upscale restaurants in the area. Ravenswood Studio, a set design and construction firm, handled the transformation of the room, which was painted to look exactly like van Gogh’s own representation, down to the skewed perspective and mottled edges. Many of the crew have art backgrounds. "They were so into it," Lefebvre said. "One of the guys who was putting the floor together was like, ‘I studied this picture in school and this paint isn’t right. I need to go back and fix it.’ "

Bookings through Airbnb for the space run only $10 a night, but February dates sold out within minutes, much to the chagrin of fans on social media. The exhibit runs through May 14, so future dates for the apartment will become available the last week of each month until then. Renters hoping to get a jump on the competition should follow #VanGoghBnB for announcements and pictures from people staying overnight.

The apartment isn’t entirely true to history. Van Gogh’s paintings show two doors in the room — one led to stairs and the other to a room for his friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin. The Chicago apartment has modern amenities — a bathroom, kitchen and couches in separate rooms with contemporary stylings and furnishings.

But the spirit of the room is authentic. "People say advertising is art in the service of commerce," Lefebvre said. "I find it really refreshing when it’s commerce in the service of art."

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