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Immersive Van Gogh
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

Immersive Van Gogh exhibit in NYC: Everything you need to know

The Van Gogh exhibit in NYC uses projections to create an emotional journey through the artist's incredible paintings.

Shaye Weaver
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Shaye Weaver
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The "Immersive Van Gogh" exhibit which opened at Pier 36 on June 10 features the frenetic work of Vincent van Gogh projected onto massive walls set to emotive music by artists like Imogen Heap, Edith Piaf, Thom Yorke and Luca Longobardi. Donning a hard hat covered in sunflowers, we got a first look in order to tell you everything you need to know about the show.

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The traveling exhibit has wowed audiences in Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and sold more than 1.5 million tickets. It's easy to see why. We say "stepped into" the exhibit because that's just what it's like. If you've gazed at van Gogh's The Starry Night, Sunflowers or Irises and wished that you could see more through the tortured artist's eyes, this The exhibition spans more than 500,000 cubic feet of animated projections—that's the "largest and most elaborate" of all the "Immersive Van Gogh" shows as well as the biggest showing of van Gogh's art in the world, according to David Korins, the New York show's creative director, who has also won awards for his work on Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. 

He, along with creator Massimiliano Siccardi, art director Vittorio Guidotti and curators Corey Ross, Svetlana Dvoretsky and Irina Shabshis have created a mesmerizing way to connect to the artist on a deeper level that envelopes you in his work. The projections fall on the walls and mirrored surfaces, but they also wash across your face and body, bringing you into the art, too.

"To me, the reason why we have all of these mirrored sculptures is to give moments of contemplation," Korins told us. "To be able to meander through the experience...to me the emotion comes from being able to choose your own adventure and invest in and absorb the work on your own time. It's very visceral."

The actual show is one hour long, which means visitors can spend even more time with van Gogh and his work. Not only that, out in the lobby, there are even more ways to connect with the artist, including an interactive sculpture called Letters from Vincent, where you can write a letter to van Gogh and get an original letter (written to his brother) sent to your phone.

There is also a 12-by-12-foot self-portrait of van Gogh to welcome visitors to the exhibition and an abstract version of The Starry Night on the ceiling made of 7,500 brushes dipped in paint, interactive booths to let you "hear" color and "see" sound (like how van Gogh might've with his chromesthesia), a "secret" experience having to do with "the green lady," and a "pocket gallery" that'll let you interact with masterworks on your phone via augmented reality. You'll be able to push paint around and take it home and virtually hang it on your wall.

Immersive Van Gogh
Photograph: Shaye Weaver/Time Out

You might be wondering why van Gogh is the lucky artist to be featured in this grand immersive exhibit. It started off as a way to showcase his work, which is renowned across the world, in a new way, but over the last 15 months, it's become clear that van Gogh and his work is more relevant than ever, Korins said.

"If you love color or imagery or scale or frenetic energy that's fine, but we have all been indelibly changed from what has happened to us in this pandemic," he said. "He was a man who was misunderstood at the minimum—he suffered from, if nothing else, loneliness and depression and being marginalized. I feel like no matter where you experienced the pandemic, no matter your socio-economic class situation, we all carried with us a bit of loneliness and isolation. As we creep out of our little apartments, I feel like he's the perfect artist for the perfect moment because there's so much of his work that is contemplative and frenetic and filled with energy but so much that is buoyant and joyous and I think of it as incredible lightning in a bottle."

The show's final day is August 29, but if you didn't get to see it, there's good news. Because of popular demand, it will return to the pier in November and run until January 2022. First access tickets for the return of Immersive Van Gogh are already available at vangoghnyc.com/extension.

"Immersive Van Gogh" opened at Pier 36 (299 South Street) on June 10. You can grab tickets at vangoghnyc.com.

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