Immersive experience impresses

Eitan Malkus, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The colors surround the room in an angelic haze as the sound effects boomed over the speakers, radiating throughout the space. The room was shaking, but it somehow felt quiet and still as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” loomed over the visitors, creating a feeling of being inside the painting.  

After anticipating the visit for months, the Van Gogh Immersive Experience exceeded expectations. The exhibit is located in Northeast D.C., and became the fifth immersive Van Gogh exhibit in the U.S. when it opened in August and is now operating in ten cities across the country and many more around the world. 

The exhibit was dreamt up as a way to showcase Van Gogh’s artwork in an unmatched, unique environment. It was first held in 2017 in Italy, but rose to popularity when it was featured in Netflix’s Original Series “Emily In Paris” in 2020. 

The reviews were incredible, but driving up to the location was somewhat underwhelming, with the exhibit being housed in a warehouse in a nondescript strip mall. Even so, it was fairly easy to find with a large colorful sign on the outside featuring “Starry Night,” Van Gogh’s most famous painting. 

The exhibit was fairly empty at the beginning, but it was clear it was sold out because buying tickets was difficult, with slots only open at the latest times at night and earliest in the morning. For a normal afternoon slot, the exhibit was booked for at least three months. Tickets ranged from $36 to $50 depending on time period and how far in advance tickets were booked. 

My party was ushered into the first room right away. The first part of the exhibit consisted of an overview of Van Gogh’s life, with different sections depicting the styles of art he most commonly used. The room showcased his flower pots, sunflowers and landscape paintings of his surroundings. 

An interesting type of artwork that was showcased was Van Gogh’s use of Japanese prints. He would use a woodblock style where the painting was split into hanging prints. When looked at from the side, they appear to be a mess, but when the angle is changed the woodblocks can be seen cohesively as beautiful prints. 

The next part of the exhibition involved an immersive projection of Van Gogh’s art on the walls of a large room. Stepping through the curtains into that room felt like an out of body experience, almost like being transported to the inside of a Van Gogh painting. 

Surrounding the immersive room are comfortable couches, chairs and benches, although many people just decided to lay on the floor and take in the experience from a different perspective. The projections moved through different paintings of Van Gogh’s, taking the viewer through a journey of his life as an artist. 

The illustrations began with Van Gogh’s popular paintings, like “Starry Night” and “Bedroom in Arles.” As the projections moved along, the tone became darker and more solemn, ending with his final painting “Tree Roots.” The projections concluded with a memorial for Van Gogh, with candles floating around the walls of the room and a showcase of all his most famous paintings, projected.

In addition to the projections, there were also sound effects, which shook the room and synced up with the projections, allowing for a full body experience. 

The immersive room was the best part of the exhibit, showcasing the best of Van Gogh’s work and making the viewer feel trapped in his mind as he went through life. 

After the immersive room, the last two parts of the exhibit are an interactive drawing experience and a VR experience where people are able to walk through Van Gogh’s house and see his inspirations for the paintings. The VR experience costs an extra $5, which is not worth it because the rest of the exhibit is enough without this added part.

Overall, the experience was an amazing representation of Van Gogh’s talent as an artist, and I would encourage anyone to go if they have the chance. Even though finding tickets can be tough, the hunt is worth it for this gem of an experience running through January 2022.