Text by Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
All images by Stephanie Sylva
For an entirely new way of encountering art, you must experience Immersive Van Gogh, the original experiential celebration of the work of the beloved post-Impressionist artist. Recently opened in New York at Pier 36 NYC (299 South St.), this impressive staging is the combined creative genius of world-renowned master of digital art, Italy’s Massimiliano Siccardi, who for 30 years has been pioneering immersive exhibitions in Europe, famed Creative Director David Korins (Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen), the classically-trained Italian pianist and composer Luca Longobardi, and Creative Director of Animation, Vittorio Guidotti.
A cultural innovation
Through art, light, music, movement, and imagination, Immersive Van Gogh invites audiences to “step inside” the iconic works of Van Gogh, evoking his highly emotional and chaotic consciousness. The 500,000 cubic-foot gallery space on Manhattan’s Lower East Side envelops patrons in an innovative world of animated projections and mood-setting music. The custom design and some newly-added elements by Korins for the New York exhibition have resulted in the largest and most impressive staging of the exhibition to date. The presentation had already opened to tremendous acclaim in Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco, with additional openings scheduled for 16 cities across North America.
Some of Korins’ additions for the NY show include:
- The Sunflower Wall, which offers a closer look at one of Van Gogh’s most famous subjects.
- The Ceiling, inspired by Van Gogh’s masterpiece The Starry Night, was created using over 7,800 individually hung paintbrushes dipped in multiple colors.
- An oversized reproduction of a self-portrait of Van Gogh, which allows people to appreciate the intimacy and nuances of the work and of the artist’s exquisite individual brushstrokes.
- The Chromesthesia Experience, an interactive exhibit designed to illustrate the generally accepted belief that Van Gogh had the ability to hear color and see sound – chromesthesia.
- Letters from Vincent allows you to pose a question to Van Gogh, to which the artist will respond with a one-of-a-kind customized letter based on an artificial intelligence program that has been loaded with over 1,000 letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother.
- The Pocket Gallery is an augmented reality experience that immerses participants in Van Gogh’s creative process using their cellphone.
- Within the exhibit, tiered observation platforms, intricate mirrored sculptures and “secret” spaces for people to discover add to the visitor experience.
The Pier 36 exhibit space has approximately 100 state-of-the-art projectors that encircle you from head-to-toe in Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and colors. The immersive illuminations, which include animated details, come from works such as Self Portrait with Felt Hat (1887), The Bedroom in Arles (18880, Irises (1889) and The Starry Night (1889).
The walk-through exhibit has three gallery rooms, each with a variety of sculptured installations. Each room provides a different perspective of the illuminated presentation, especially as you move to different locations within each room. Digitally projected social distancing circles on the gallery floors suggest appropriate spacing. The largest of the rooms has a number of movable benches that offer a perfect chance to sit, relax, and reflect on the multimedia extravaganza.
A variety of ticket options are available including a VIP Flex ticket and special Date Night Packages. Tickets have a timed entry, but you can stay in the exhibit for multiple showings. We observed the multimedia presentation 3 times, once in each of the rooms. The display runs on a continuous loop. Free to move about, we enjoyed the presentation from various spots in each of the rooms.
Immersive Van Gogh has received rave reviews from critics worldwide. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “entire rooms pulse with imagery and emotional resonance.” The Toronto Sun declared, “the mind-blowing imagery, brings van Gogh’s best work to life — including Sunflower, Irises, and The Starry Night — for a cathartic and liberating experience”. “Immersive Van Gogh ups the emotional ante”, Debra Yeo of the Toronto Star stated, “I wondered: could projections of paintings on walls and floors be thrilling? The answer is ‘yes.’” Called a “completely new way of encountering art” by CTV and a “blockbuster digital experience that has taken the art world by storm” by Artnet News.
Pier 36 NYC has on-site parking and is easily accessible from the F Train (East Broadway station) or the M22 bus (Madison/Clinton stop). Tickets are on sale now through the end of August. For more information about Immersive Van Gogh, visit vangoghnyc.com or call 844-307-4644. Follow the exhibition on social media at @goghnyc on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.