Recently, I attended the Van Gogh:  The Immersive Experience in New York City and found it to be the best post-pandemic escapism that I wholeheartedly recommend. I am careful not to call this an exhibition since it is not. So what is it you ask? A sensory stimulation that is high-tech, educational, and super enjoyable. It combines the best of a prolific artist’s works, in this case Vincent Van Gogh, with an explosion of projected lights, colorful images and a VR (Virtual Reality) experience along with music from a surround sound system similar to an IMAX theater.


This is my second immersive experience, having attended the Bansky Expo being shown in New York using a different format and no-where as stimulating as Van Gogh (Click here for a review).

Right now, in New York City, there are two Van Gogh immersive experiences which are a bit confusing, as they both are entirely different productions. I happen to purchase the one being shown on Vesey Street and frankly, I’d like to think that this one is the best of the two. If you plan to drive there, I suggest you get there early as street parking is scarce and the parking garages will set you back at least 40 bucks. Tickets are not cheap, $45 plus another $5 for the VR goggles for an average stay of 90 minutes. No regrets here.

What I like about this awesome  “Sensorial Experience”

First, I love the artist Van Gogh having read a book about his life as well as seeing films documenting his art. His life is a love story in so many ways. His love of painting, love for others, and his unique relationship with his beloved brother, Theo. I was pleased that the producers made a concerted effort to educate their audiences about Van Gogh. Upon entering, there are several galleries that provide a retrospective on his works through the various stages of his life. I learned some new things about him. Besides his mental illness, Van Gogh may have suffered from some form of color blindness which may explain his forceful strokes of colorful paints that add so much texture to his works. The exhibits narrating his life were well researched, with footnotes and replicas of many of his works. 

Leaving the galleries, you enter this enormous room with a soundtrack of classical music and a thundering voice of some of his popular quotes. The room’s combination of strobing lights, high ceiling images, melancholy haunting music, and intimate darkness send you off into a meditative state, but with your eyes wide open. You get to sit on a chair or on a floor mat and just watch all of Van Gogh’s artwork and life images exploding before your eyes. Equally gratifying is the extra 5 dollars you pay to wear these VR goggles for a 10-minute excursion based on seven of his most gifted paintings. You feel you are inside Van Gogh’s head walking with him and experiencing his life and love for the cypress trees, wheat fields and so much more of what living in the village of Arles in the south of France was like. The experience is so mesmerizing that you want to do it again. From there, you enter the gift shop and it’s all over but so satisfying. This production is being planned for major cities throughout the US. Click here to see where it’s being shown. 

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The Future of Immersive Experiences

For-profit companies who are in the entertainment business are producing these elaborate immersive events, many times referred to as edu-tertainment or info-tertainment. There are already similar productions happening of other artists, such as Monet and Klimt.

They are profitable and quick to mount and can easily travel internationally and be in multiple cities at the same time as compared to the touring of exhibitions of original art by museums that are costly and require being sponsored by benefactors. These productions are definitely competing with museums for the same audience who can pay $25-$50 per ticket. It’s not clear what this could mean in the future, as these productions become the norm  competing with museums, art fairs and other visual and performing art venues. For museums that are public institutions with a stated mission, it may not make a difference as long as they can remain relevant and financially sustainable. Time will tell what impact this form of entertainment will have on the Art World and whether museums will come up with its own version that will also include original art works.

Happy to share some photos and video of the event, but neither is a substitute for the real thing. For the video click below: 

Van Gogh Video

        Remember to click the center of the photo to see the full view. 

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