Gogh downtown and revel in art

By Tess Dankoski, Staff Writer

Van Gogh Cincinnati: The Immersive Experience is a beautiful celebration of painter Vincent Van Gogh’s brilliant mind that allows you to truly submerge yourself in some of the most famous art of all time.

This exhibit is one of many locations of The Immersive Experience that have popped up around the globe in the past five years. However, it is not a carbon copy replica of the exhibits in other cities, giving fans an opportunity to see it in a new way.

The Immersive Experience isn’t simply one big room with projected artwork, as it is often portrayed in advertisements. Instead, visitors get the opportunity to wander through several smaller experiences before and after the main show.

The exhibit begins with hallways with panels detailing Van Gogh’s life, his family and his many artistic techniques, all giving the viewer a comprehensive overview of who Van Gogh was. 

The pre-show experience also had a 3-D section, allowing viewers to walk into Instagram-worthy sets of Van Gogh’s paintings., including “The Bedroom,” where you can actually sit on the chairs or the bed.

After visitors ascend a few flights of stairs, which were hand-painted in the style of Van Gogh’s most famous piece, “Starry Night,” the exhibit leads viewers to the main part of the show, where his paintings are brought to life through moving projections. 

The space is an empty, carpeted room except for chairs facing every wall. While these chairs provided an opportunity to rest while watching the show, they seemed to discourage viewers from walking freely throughout the room and moving through the space with the art.

Parts of the 35-minute show were underwhelming. For starters, it lacked any sort of chronological telling of Van Gogh’s life and history. It jumped around and provided little context about his works. His sketches and paintings could have been weaved in and out with biographical information about his life, but instead it felt disorganized and dizzying.

My biggest qualm was the editing of certain parts of the show.  At times, cheap-looking effects reminiscent of PowerPoint slide transitions were used. Overall, this section felt like a digression from Van Gogh’s work and in no way pointed towards his style. 

If it was meant to showcase his mental turmoil, then it was certainly a melodramatic way of doing so. As I watched it, I worried that if he saw this part of the show, Van Gogh would feel misrepresented.

However, there were also several parts that very much aligned with the spirit of Van Gogh’s iconic style. 

The showing of “Starry Night” was absolutely stunning. The projection brought even more movement to the work, making the sky swirl, the trees sway in the breeze and the lights from the town houses blink on and off. This painting flowed seamlessly into its sister painting of sorts, “Starry Night Over the Rhône,” and made it seem as if the room was filling up with water. 

To bookend the show, there was an optional 10 minute virtual reality show for an extra $5. This was surprisingly delightful and well worth the additional cost. As you are moved through several scenes — like a small French town and a wooded forest — you pause at places that were inspirations for Van Gogh’s famous works, seeing them as if you are the artist himself painting his daily observations. This unique addition delivered exactly what this show should be: a way of experiencing his art by being placed inside of it. 

Despite some missteps, all of the little details that went into creating the experience seemed very intentional.

The team responsible for assembling the entirety of this exhibit obviously put a lot of time into making it special, which I believe they succeeded in doing. 

While The Immersive Experience is a bit pricey, it’s a beautiful thing to experience once. 

Tickets are available to the exhibit, located on 4th Street in downtown Cincinnati, every day except Tuesdays until Nov. 5. Adult tickets start at $34.90, and student tickets start at $26.90.