Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience arrived in Raleigh, NC in May 2022 giving me the opportunity to finally visit this immersive experience museum. Like so many, I had seen Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience all over social media and fallen for its dreamy scenes. So, when I saw it was coming to Raleigh, I knew I had to visit.
Then, I saw the price of a weekend visit to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience! As I said, I had to visit, and I wasn’t going to let this stop me. However, as I walked out of the exhibit, I had to wonder if it was worth it. If you are asking yourself the same thing as you plan to visit in a city near you, here’s what I think.
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But First, What Are These Immersive Experience Museums
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is an audiovisual art exhibit showcasing many of Van Gogh’s various works in ways that place you inside the paintings. At the risk of sounding over-the-top, it is truly a feast for the senses.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is just one of five different yet similarly-named Van Gogh experiences touring the world. These exhibits display Van Gogh’s works in ways that blend traditional artistic techniques, CGI technology and symphonic scores to create a new type of art that we live in rather than simply viewing with our eyes.
These various Van Gogh immersive experiences travel from city to city across the world giving people a chance to experience Van Gogh’s works in new, fantastical ways.
Are you a fan of art but not necessarily these types of immersive experiences? Check out these articles that discuss some of the top art museums in the world: My Top 8 Highlights of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, The Best Highlights of the Accademia Gallery, and Get to Know My Favorite London Museums.
Wait, There’s More Than One Immersive Experience?
Yes. Surprised? Me too.
There are five different Van Gogh exhibits, all with similar names and similar presentations. I didn’t realize this until I sat down to write this post. The different exhibits are Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition, Immersive Van Gogh, Van Gogh Alive, and Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.
(But seriously, couldn’t they at least get more original with the names!)
There are some small differences between each exhibit, but from what I can gather the differences are relatively minor. However, if you found something on social media from one of these exhibits you are really looking forward to seeing, you should confirm which exact exhibit it was from to avoid disappointment.
For instance, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is more of a sit-down exhibit whereas some of what I see on social media looks like you are walking through the exhibit. At the end of the day, I’m not sure the overall experience will be much different, but it is still important to be aware of.
Some History on Vincent Van Gogh
To really convey the experience of seeing this exhibit, just a little history on Vincent Van Gogh is needed. Van Gogh was a post-impressionist painter during the late 19th century in France and the Netherlands.
He is something of a tragic figure. Van Gogh suffered from severe depression, which had profound effects on his art. In the span of about a decade, he produced 2,100 different works. His paintings mostly consist of natural landscapes, portraits and still lifes.
His works consist of bold colors and non-linear brushstrokes that create the feeling that the painting can burst into existence at any moment. It’s easy to get lost in his works as they all seem to be their own unique world existing within the borders of their frames. These immersive experiences take advantage of that fact, bringing his works to life in a way that seems all too appropriate.
The real tragedy of Van Gogh is his lack of success while he was alive. He’s arguably the most successful artist of the last 200 years, and yet he was considered a failure while he lived. It wasn’t until his death that his works began to see critical acclaim.
I’m always struck by this fact when looking at his works. I wonder, would his art have suffered had he been more popular while at the height of his creative prowess?
Not everyone enjoys these immersive experiences. The artworks are all replicas, it can be expensive and the experience is more on the immersion instead of the art. If you want to go to the source to see the most original Van Gogh works, you’ll have to head to Amsterdam for the Van Gogh Museum. Get your tickets below!
What to Expect in the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience Museums
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience consists of four different sections. The first area is best described as a museum. There are about 20-30 replicas of some of Van Gogh’s most popular paintings and information boards with biographical information.
I found the boards to be far too wordy. They had helpful information, but as I’m the type of person who can’t just skim, I couldn’t imagine standing there reading each one. It would have taken far too long.
The highlights of this first area are easily the real-world model of Bedroom in Arles and a small room projecting some of Van Gogh’s still lifes of flowers on to a vase.
My personal favorite of the whole exhibit is the vase room. I sat there for a few minutes watching the paint explode and flow in every direction creating different vase scenes from a variety of Van Gogh’s works. It is utterly mesmerizing and a work of art unto itself.
The Immersive Experience
This is the crux of the visit. When you first enter this section, there’s a small entry hall lined with mirrors showing various sunflowers flow across the walls. It’s clearly meant for social media, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun little room.
After watching the sunflowers float over the walls, ceiling and my own body, I walked into the main room. This is what we paid $45 to see.
It’s a large room with projectors displaying various paintings of Van Gogh’s in a 360° environment. There are loungers and bean bags throughout the room to rest in while you take in the show.
As the visuals swirl and transition from one painting to the next, the music filling the room ebbs and flows appropriately creating a hypnotic experience. It’s easy to lose track of time in this room.
It truly is an incredible experience. The whole thing is thoughtfully done. The music swells at the perfect times, and the various scenes last just long enough to give you time to reflect before the anxious anticipation for the next transition.
Watching his Starry Night transition through the room as the moon soars across the sky is particularly entrancing. The sky and water swirls as if you’re watching the artist creating his brush strokes in real time. Lights even turn on and off in the dark village to make it more realistic.
It’s like living in a dreamworld that Van Gogh created just for your eyes. His paintings seem perfectly suited for this type of medium.
My only complaint about this specific room is with some of the transitions. Some look like cheap screensaver effects from a mid-2000s computer. It’s enough to briefly take you out of the immersive experience the creators are going for.
The Coloring Book Room
That isn’t an official name, but it is essentially what this room is. It’s a room where you can grab a coloring page showing one of Van Gogh’s paintings and color it in however your heart desires.
Once you’re done, you can pin your artwork to the wall for future visitors to enjoy. I’ve never been artistic, so I skipped the actual coloring. I did take some time to view other peoples’ works. Some were quite well done. It was interesting to see how other people interpret some of these famous paintings.
Virtual Reality Experience
For an additional $5 (because the entry fee isn’t enough already, amirite?!), you don a 3D headset to take your visit even further. In this section, you can virtually walk through some of the settings Van Gogh used for inspiration when making his paintings.
We skipped this. When we visited, the COVID-19 pandemic was still somewhat raging, and I wasn’t particularly eager to put on a 3D headset that another person just had on their face regardless of how disinfected it was.
Beyond that, something about having to pay another fee after the exorbitant entry fee just rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t justify paying more money even if it was just $5. Researching this article, it doesn’t sound like I missed much.
And That’s It
I don’t mean for that to sound facetious, but I was expecting more for $45. The way the whole exhibit was set up, it seemed as if there would be more after the main room.
There’s a sign before you enter describing three different parts of the show (effectively three different stages of Van Gogh’s life). We both thought this was three different rooms rather than three different parts to the audiovisual show.
Because we thought there was more to the entire exhibit, I think we missed about 10 minutes or so in the main room. We stayed in there for 20-25 minutes, but apparently the experience runs for about 35 minutes. We saw a part that looked similar to what was being shown when we first walked in and just assumed we saw everything.
It was a little disappointing as we walked out and realized there was nothing more in the exhibit.
I just wish it had been a little clearer that the one room was the only immersive room. We would have definitely stayed longer to be sure we saw everything.
Practical Information for Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
Tickets and Admission
Tickets to see Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience in Raleigh cost $45 for adults (ages 13-64) on weekends or holidays, $35 on weekdays during the day, and $40 on weekdays in the evening. There are several ticket options including VIP, senior citizen and family discounts.
The cost for this exhibit is definitely the main sticking point. $45 to go see an art exhibit that lasts only about an hour is a lot of money. You could go on a weekday in the middle of day, but I would argue $35 for an art exhibit that lasts only about an hour is still a lot of money.
Prices vary depending on which city you are planning to visit the museum in. I didn’t research every single city, but at a quick glance, they seem to range from $30 to $50.
Tickets are available to purchase online. Further, tickets sell quickly, and entry is reservation only. If you are planning on visiting, purchase tickets as soon as possible to guarantee entry on a day and time that work for you.
How Long is Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
Per their website, you can expect to spend 60-75 minutes in the whole exhibit. This time will vary depending on how much you enjoy art and Van Gogh, in particular.
We spent about 45-50 minutes in the exhibit. About a half hour of that was spent in the main room of the experience.
Is Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience Worth $45
I’ll be honest, I’ve been debating the answer to this the whole time I wrote this article. As with most things in life, I think the answer is it depends.
Briefly, I do think the cost is worth it if you like this type of art. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is just that: a brief foray into an immersive world of Van Gogh’s work. Even if parts of it reminded me of my first college laptop’s default screensaver, it is still unlike any type of art exhibit I’ve seen before. It is inspiring and emotional in a way that all artists aspire for.
Just make sure you stick around in the main attraction long enough to see everything!
Now, what if you aren’t much of an art fan but you saw this on Instagram and thought it could be neat? Save your money because I think you’ll be disappointed. There simply is not enough to make it worth the high fee unless you have a genuine interest in the subject matter. Go to a local park to get your weekend Instagram stories instead.
If you are visiting in a city with entry fees around $30, I think the price justifies the product as long as you have a reasonable appreciation of art. It’s still kind of a high fee, but it’s a unique and fun way to spend an hour.
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