Immersive Van Gogh exhibits are ubiquitous, partly thanks to ‘Emily in Paris.’ Are they quality art?

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo and Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy

Nearly 40 of the immersive Vincent Van Gogh exhibits have recently opened in the U.S. or are popping up soon. One is currently running in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd

The Netflix show “Emily in Paris” pushed the art exhibit’s expansion from Europe to the U.S., according to Bloomberg CityLab staff writer Kriston Capps

It’s a buzzy rom-com about a 20-something American woman who moves to Paris for her marketing job. At one point, Emily, her love interest, and his girlfriend head to a big warehouse that’s been turned into a life-size Vincent Van Gogh painting.

That scene inspired a new cultural phenomenon of sorts. 

“You had suddenly five different companies trying to be the first on the ground in different cities with a Van Gogh immersive. They were eventually going to hit. There was no way that we would be spared these experiences, but it seemed to really accelerate that timeline,” says Capps.

What can guests expect at a Van Gogh show? 

“When you walk in, you might learn a little bit about Vincent Van Gogh's life … and just plunge right into the kind of large projections where there's some animation, there are the paintings — the blockbuster hits that you know and love — and those kind of swirl around for a good half an hour or so. And then you’re in the gift shop.” 

Tickets in LA can range from $55 for the base experience to $100 for VIP treatment. Capps says that the larger-than-expected price tag is helping production companies rake in big bucks. That’s because Van Gogh’s art falls into the public domain, and producers are only paying for the rights to high resolution images. 

One company has sold more than 3.2 million tickets so far, which exceeds how many tickets Taylor Swift sold during her Reputation stadium tour, Capps points out.

One museum in Indianapolis has taken down a floor of contemporary art to host a Van Gogh experience. But some art lovers and residents there are frustrated by the move, Capp says. 

“I think that could be seen as a disservice to the people over many decades, more than 100 years, who contributed to ensuring that Indianapolis has a vital repository for art.”