Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Columbus

I first noticed the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit on Facebook when some of my friends attended the one in Cleveland.  Curious, I checked it out and thought it sounded like something interesting to do with my parents.  I wondered, however, about the logistics of getting us all to Cleveland and back.  So I was very excited when I found out it was coming to Columbus.  In fact, it got set up in a building at Polaris, less than ten miles from our house.  The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit opened in Columbus on October 28 and we attended on my birthday on November 10.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Columbus

It is difficult to describe the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit if you haven’t been there.  I read everything I could online about it and looked at lots of pictures, but the reality was better than what I had been expecting.  Somehow, the exhibit displays the artworks of Van Gogh by making them come alive around you.  The pictures are projected on the walls, on the floor, and on the people around you.  You are immersed in a living, moving work of art.

The tickets for the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit were expensive for a relatively short experience.  I paid almost $50 per ticket, when you included the online ticket charge.  You can pay more if you go on a weeknight or anytime on the weekend.  You can also pay more if get one of the premium packages.  I chose to get the basic ticket for all four of us.  Your ticket gives you a timed window of entry into the exhibit.

Every time Tom and I have driven by, the exhibit has been packed.  The day we went to the exhibit was no different.  Tom dropped us all off at the door and then went in search of a parking spot.  The parking lot was completely full, so he parked at another spot down the street.  When we got inside, I asked if we could bring in a chair for my dad.  The website FAQS tell you no chairs but I had heard of other people taking chairs.  There are some benches provided, but no handicapped seating.  The people working at the exhibit said bringing a chair for my dad was okay, so I texted Tom to bring in the folding chair we brought with us.

Once Tom came inside we queued up and had our tickets (on my phone) scanned.  Then we waited until there was room in the exhibit.  The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit program lasts 36 minutes.  But people can stay as long as they want, for as many showings of it as they want.  The doorkeepers let people in as other people left, so there was a slow, but constant flow of people into the exhibit room.  The showings are on a loop so you might enter in the middle of a show.

Mom and Dad and me
The art surrounds you
Mom and Dad enjoying the show

Once we entered the show we were surrounded by sound and color.  We stepped into one of the social distancing circles and set up the chair for Dad.  Mom opted to sit on the floor next to him while Tom and I stood during the show.  As the different art works were displayed, they came to life on the walls around us.  Water rippled in canals.  Fields of irises and sunflowers grew right before our eyes.  A train steamed along a landscape from one wall to another.  Smoke rose from a cigarette.  The stars grew slowly or exploded all around us in one starry night picture after another.

No narration accompanied the art.  Instead, there was a beautiful background of mostly classical music, timed to the piece of artwork that was being highlighted.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the pictures moving around us.  People around us moved into and around the room, some seated on the benches, some on the floors or leaning against the mirrored supports.

As we came to the end of our show, some people moved into another part of the room to experience the show from a different perspective.  The four of us were ready to move out of the immersive experience, so we picked up the chair and moved out of the room as the next show started.  Several displays in the rest of the exhibit gave a little timeline of the life of Van Gogh and had oversize art displays.

Exhibits outside the immersive experience

All of us enjoyed the show very much.  Tom and I would both like to see it again, but didn’t want to see it again immediately after the first show.  I would be interested in a ticket that let you go on several different days, in order to process the experience in between.  But that isn’t an option at this exhibit and $50 is a lot to pay each time if you want to see it again.

The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit was a unique way to experience art.  After the show, all of us talked about other artists we would like to see exhibited in this way.  We all agreed, however, that the way Van Gogh painted – the swirls and hints of movement in his paintings – made his art uniquely suited to this particular kind of exhibition.

Did you Gogh to Immersive Van Gogh?  What did you think?