Dueling Van Gogh exhibits generate interest, confusion in DC, New York

Dueling Van Gogh exhibits with very similar names are creating confusion.

Here’s everything you need to know about the two competing promotions.

The acclaimed exhibit Immersive Van Gogh is launching in six locations across North America: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Toronto.

“It started in Toronto in July of last year … and we’ve had over 200,000 people come through,” producer Corey Ross told WTOP. “We’ve since opened in Chicago in February and we’ve already had 50,000 people come through. Next, we’re going to open in San Francisco in March, then in L.A. and New York in May and June.”

The exhibit promises 500,000 cubic feet of projections, 60,600 frames of video and 90 million pixels. It’s created by Italy’s Massimiliano Siccardi, who for 30 years has been pioneering immersive exhibitions in Europe seen by more than 2 million visitors in Paris.

“If you’ve seen Episode 5 of ‘Emily in Paris,’ shot inside the exhibit in Paris, you know what I’m talking about,” Ross said, adding that Siccardi digitally maps the artwork to all of the architecture. “You’re seeing Van Gogh on a size and scale you’ve never seen before. … He is essentially the Steven Spielberg of these projection installations.”

The Washington Post said the exhibit “cleverly embraces creativity.” The Chicago Tribune wrote, “Entire rooms pulse with imagery and emotional resonance.” The Toronto Sun said, “the mind-blowing imagery brings van Gogh’s best work to life — including Sunflower, Irises and The Starry Night — for a cathartic and liberating experience.”

“Beyond seeing sunflowers blowing in the wind, clouds going by and stars sparkling, all of which is spectacular, it really takes you in the mind of Van Gogh,” Ross said. “What flashed before Van Gogh’s eyes the moment before he died? So it’s this stream of consciousness inside the mind of Van Gogh and you are completely immersed in it.”

A second exhibit, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, is produced by Exhibition Hub and sold through the ticket vendor Fever. It promotes U.S. locations in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Miami, New York and Philadelphia, as well as D.C., where tickets went on sale Friday for a “secret location” to be announced in 14 days.

“Since 2017, we’ve done it in over 18 cities over the world,” Exhibition Hub CEO Mario Iacampo told WTOP, including countries such as Israel, Beijing, China, the UK, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria. “And every time we present it, we add something.”

It features a 20,000-square-foot spectacle with 360-degree projections of Van Gogh’s most iconic works on 15,000-square-foot screens using more than 60 projectors.

“We’ve recreated a vase that is 6 feet tall, and on one side of it we project over 30 of the vases that he painted,” Iacampo said. The main room is more than 30 feet high, and “we project on all four walls as well as the floor and the ceiling.”

The exhibit takes roughly 60 to 75 minutes to complete, including a 10-minute virtual reality component, “A Day in the Life of the Artist,” where you can walk alongside Van Gogh through “Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles” and “Starry Night Over The Rhone River.”

“We wake up in the morning to the sound of roosters and we’re in Van Gogh’s bedroom that he painted. We come out and travel through the city of Arles,” Iacampo said. “We stop time to time where we see the scene that sparked Van Gogh to paint a certain scene.”

The Exhibition Hub exhibit is billed as “all digital, hands free and perfect for our socially distant world.” Its summer launch should allow time for COVID-19 vaccines, after which it will be open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

However, some WTOP listeners have complained of ticketing issues through Fever, which upon further review has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau. The company defends itself by citing a user rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store.

“We understand there have been some comments regarding Fever and our legitimacy, but we have been operating for over five years and are a U.S. company with a team of over 350 people with presence in over 60 major cities across the world,” Fever Public Relations & Communications Specialist Oliver Davies told WTOP in an email.

“We are backed by leading institutional investors, including Rakuten Capital (investors of Pinterest and Lyft), Accel (investors in tech companies such as Facebook), Fidelity and Atresmedia (producers of successful TV shows such as ‘Money Heist’),” Davies said.

Google searches show articles comparing the two exhibits, but you should know that the article on Secret NYC is published by Fever. Mentions of events by its parent company are flagged as “sponsored,” but casual readers may not know the difference.

“I’m very sad about the confusion,” Ross said. “This other party has entered the market in North America after we were here. … Van Gogh passed away 130 years ago. After 75 years, his art is public domain. … Siccardi had this incredibly successful exhibit in Europe and a number of people around the world have tried to imitate it.”

For questions regarding Immersive Van Gogh, you can call 844-307-4644.

“We are getting hundreds of emails from folks who are confused,” Ross said. “Anybody who is confused and buys our tickets thinking they’re buying tickets to someone else’s shows can have a refund. … We’ve had zero people ask for a refund for our show.”

For questions regarding Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, you can email either info@vangoghexperience.com or hello@feverup.com.

“At the end of the day, if they feel that they somehow bought the wrong ticket, we will refund them,” Iacampo said. “That’s not an issue at all.”

Listen to our full chat with Corey Ross of Immersive Van Gogh.

Listen to our full chat with Mario Iacampo of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.

This is an update to a story that ran on WTOP last Thursday.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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