One of the greatest things about being a local to the New York City area is being able to visit the many traveling exhibits and experiences that take up residency in the Big Apple. Now that the pandemic is starting to wain, more and more is starting to reopen. My partner-in-crime, Caleb, has been a long-time Van Gogh fan and is quick to share that the great post-impressionist painter is one of his favorites and the Starry Night is his favorite work. For his birthday and graduation at the end of May, his parents gave him two tickets to the Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit and I was lucky enough to be his guest of choice.
Since it was a time for such big celebrations, Caleb’s parents opted to get us the VIP tickets, primarily for its skip-the-line perk. Once we got to Pier 36 (where the exhibit is located), this benefit immediately kicked in. We had a separate entrance from the main queue, which already had quite a long line. We were able to make it through security checks and get into the building within five minutes of our arrival. After that, we were escorted by a team member past another line set into a side room, where we received our VIP gift bags. The bags included a floor cushion with art themed to the exhibit, a poster from the experience featuring some of Van Gogh’s most famous work, a large (fake) sunflower, and a lanyard with a VIP tag on it. After receiving our bags, we were once again escorted to another door. This was the only point we had to wait in line since we had to wait for the main hall to clear out a bit, but it was not long at all. In total, our passes easily saved us over an hour in wait. We were being held in a darkened hallway with lit photographs that featured details about Vincent Van Gogh’s life before the line moved again and we were let into the experience.
There is truly no other way to describe the exhibit besides “immersive.” From the second you walk in, the walls and floors are covered with Van Gogh’s work coming to life through motion graphics, animation, and music. There were three rooms in the exhibit, but all three featured the same visuals playing simultaneously and just provided more space for visitors to spread out. All three areas featured reflective elements- some included to cover building supports, others added for aesthetics. Since some pandemic precautions were still in place, there were circles on the floor (also projected) for each group to sit. The first open circle Caleb and I found was in the third room and was one of the many to not have chairs or a bench, so we pulled out our cushions, sat down, and took in the experience. Later on, we were able to sit on a bench and then stand on top of the platform in the third room (a completely different experience than just sitting on the ground level).
The experience was truly beautiful. Everything came to life around you, on all four walls and even the ground. Caleb and I ended up sitting through the “film” about two and a half times. Every time we watched, we found something new and unique to look at. There was a lot going on, but it never felt overwhelming. Rather, it truly felt like Van Gogh’s work come to life and you were in the middle of it all. The exhibit does have somewhat of a traditional film setup, as there is a beginning, end, and credits, but there is no distinct narrative that is followed. Even after the two and a half times we watched the film, I felt like there was still more to see, and depending on where you sat or stood, you could find even more new things. Before we left, we viewed one of the scenes just by looking through one of the reflective elements that was set up and the view we got was stunning beyond belief.
After exiting the immersive experience, you walk through a hallway with a fashion exhibit inspired by many of the works before entering the gift shop, which features even more interactive elements, as well as merchandise themed to the exhibit and Vincent Van Gogh’s works. You exit the exhibit to the rear of the building, allowing you to see the water before heading off on your next adventure. For Caleb and I, that entailed heading uptown to visit Laduree (one of my favorite places in the city), and walking around Central Park for a bit.
After visiting, I cannot say enough good things about Van Gogh Exhibit New York City: The Immersive Experience. It’s enjoyable for anyone interested in art and media, but absolutely perfect for those who are Van Gogh fans. While the entire experience likely won’t take more than a few hours, as each viewing of the film is about 30 minutes, it is well worth the trip to the city, or downtown. I am incredibly thankful that Caleb brought me along for the adventure and hope to see more experiences like this pop up in the next few years!
Have a terrific day,