Immersive Art Exhibitions Are Everywhere and They're Awful (2023)

Vincent van Gogh. Salvador Dalí. Frida Kahlo. Casual perusers of ads on the tube would be forgiven for thinking that London’s galleries are enjoying some sort of golden age. Alas, the truth is less exciting, more expensive and certainly more depressing. For this is no ordinary art on offer; this art is “immersive”.

Immersive art” is the latest lazy lovechild of TikTok and enterprising warehouse landlords. Ready your Oculus headsets, earplugs and gas-masks or simply sit on your arse and read - I’ve been to London’s immersive art exhibitions, so you don’t have to.


The first problem with immersive art? It's not actually very immersive. A common trope of “immersive” retrospectives of famous artists is to lazily recreate their original pieces using gimmicky tech. But merely aiming a low-res projector at a blank canvas doesn’t do much in the way of sensory stimulation, and I defy anyone facing a pixely printed out scan of a Klimt painting to feel that their aesthetic awareness has been expanded in any novel way. (I’ve genuinely seen this, it was awful.)


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As with most of these sins, the Brick Lane Van Gogh expo takes the biscuit. My favourite element of the “immersive” show was their faithful recreation of Van Gogh’s bedroom. An ambitious feat, executed with two square metres of lino flooring, some furniture that looks like it’s been purloined from a young offenders unit and, of course, mutilated pastiches of his paintings. I’ve had dental procedures which have felt more immersive and certainly more enjoyable. But I’m no high art purist, I’m willing to come round to recreations of famous paintings - so long as exhibition designers are more ambitious with their choice of source material. An immersive version of Picasso’s Guernica (recreated in a Brick Lane warehouse) would be fucking hilarious, and an immersive version of Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights… hilarious fucking.


While projectors, surround sound and uncomfortably wacky seating are mainstays of immersive art swindlers, their arsenal of olfactory-system-assault-weapons is rapidly expanding. The Serpentine hosted Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s Alienarium 5, a pioneering a room that was designed to smell of “alienflowers (holorium)”. Unfortunately, despite collaborating with a renowned perfumer to conceptualise this other-worldly odour, the result was unpleasantly sweaty and metallic.

And then there are the VR headsets - beware! Many exhibitions don’t even include these with the standard ticket, so my dizzying return to reality has twice been accompanied by an usher brandishing a credit card machine. I’m sure that in ten years, when the NFT-ChatGPT-NPCs inherit the earth, I’ll be hooked up to one of these things and juiced for stress hormones by a satanic group, but I’m in no mood to hasten this descent from IRL to URL.

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And to the tin-foil hat truthers reading this, “immersive” exhibitions are strong evidence you aren’t just a “brain in vat”, because no-one designing a simulation could dream of making an experience so utterly unexceptional.

Sometimes these installations are so banal and depthless, visitors have walked through installations entirely oblivious. I myself have fallen victim to this on my way out of Tottenham Court Road tube when I was kettled by herds of tourists into a projector-filled hangar. Wading through human traffic as several thousand lumens were fired into my retinas was sufficient to drive me out into the murky depths of Soho. I subsequently discovered that this was my first (and last) visit to London’s Outernet space, “an immersive entertainment district in the heart of London where communities come together to enjoy culture in breathtaking new ways”.


A sad consequence of this disappointing “immersive art” is it will repel art lovers and commissioners from taking risks with more interesting immersive experiences which call for more resources than a few projectors, UE booms and beanbags. Alfredo Jaar’s installation at the latest Whitney Biennial was genuinely immersive. He simulated a Black Lives Matter riot with traumatising viscerality by whipping up gale-force winds in a cell of subwoofers. Even the Barbican’s Rain Room was undoubtedly immersive, provided you could survive the 12-hours queues and getting a bit soggy.

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The "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience" at Old Truman Brewery, London. Photo: Tristan Fewings / Stringer via Getty Images

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Conversely, lots of immersive art is effective with none of the techy trappings boasted by the Design Museum’s WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD or the dreaded Canary Wharf Winter Lights festival. Rirkrit Tiravanija’s pioneering installation pad thai (1990), centred around the artist cooking Thai food for his visitors - it doesn’t get more low tech than that, but most likely immersed visitors in new relationships and a wider range of experiences than a string of LEDs at the Tate sponsored by Bank of America (hi, Yayoi Kusama).

Another problem with much of London’s “immersive art” is that it’s not really art. I’ll spare you the aesthetics lecture that I usually reserve for bad Hinge dates, but on most theories of what distinguishes art from the banal, “immersive art” fails.


At best it’s unimaginative. Paying a boiler room of animation undergrads to make the stars move in Van Gogh’s Starry Night isn’t an act of supreme creative genius, it’s distracting. And when this same effect is applied indiscriminately to the rest of his canon (and some clichéd asylum scenes), it becomes quite hard not to laugh. At moments, I felt like I was trapped in a GCSE art student’s idea of a bad trip. Leaving the exhibition I wasn’t sure what Van Gogh himself would’ve thought, but I fear that if he too had shelled out £25 for a ticket, he’d be inclined to mutilate more of his remaining sensory organs.

At worst, the drive to transform a masterpiece risks mutilating what originally made it special. Is it conceivable that Picasso made a mark on a canvas in a particular way, for a particular reason? The artist’s “way of seeing” is lost when you decide to transpose a scan of it onto the wall of a Parisian lantern factory. But despite the fixation “immersive experiences” have with novelty, the products of their labours are remarkably similar: disappointing light shows punctuated by a few TikTok friendly, gamified, set pieces. (I have a strong desire to letterbomb the next person who posts an Instagram story about Kusama, and no, I don’t care that you’re at Paris Fashion Week.)



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Perhaps the ultimate irony is that the largest audience for any of these “immersive” shows is online where none of the supposed “immersive” features can even be experienced. Given this is the audience who drive ticket sale hype, is it really a surprise that commercial curators sacrifice aspirations of multi-sensory immersiveness at the one-dimensional altar of photogenics?

My last gripe with immersive art? It’s fucking expensive. The Van Gogh Expo costs £27, Dalí: Cybernetics sets you back £23, and for the princely sum of £65 you can visit the Tate’s Infinity Rooms and sup on a “Kusama-inspired dinner”. At last, an exhibition for people who literally want art to be spoon-fed to them. The gouging prices are especially galling since so many of the artists (whose genius they profiteer from) died hundreds of years ago.

At the Van Gogh experience, aeons of melodramatic projector screen-time are devoted to the artist's death in penury and obscurity, rendering the hefty ticket price especially nausea inducing. So where is all this money going? Many of these ‘experiences’ are operated by sinisterly named, multi-million dollar businesses like teamLAB, Brain Hunter Co., and Fever Labs. Sure, art has always been big business, but immersive art seems to be uniquely ripe for raiding by faceless corporations. You don’t have to pay the (long deceased) original artist, you can depend on TikTok automatons to turn up no matter what, and you can rinse and repeat the same “unique immersive experience” in any city with electricity.

So if you can stomach the egregious ticket prices, you don’t care for multi-sensory immersion and you place no premium on artistic originality; there’s a very real chance you’ll enjoy the “immersive art” on show at the moment. Then again, you’d probably also enjoy a brain tumour. As a rule of thumb, if it sells itself as “immersive”, it’s probably not worth seeing. But if you're hell bent on hunting down a hologram, I’d head down to ABBA Voyage, it’s less pretentious and a lot more fun. Or you could wander into the National Gallery, and see the real thing, for free.



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What are the reasons people like immersive art? ›

Immersive art brings the vision of the artist to life and sparks the imagination, making viewing pieces even more of an experience.

Is immersive Van Gogh same everywhere? ›

"Immersive Van Gogh" is coming to Orlando this fall. It's not the same as "Van Gogh Alive" at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. And definitely not "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience" coming to Miami.

Is the immersive Van Gogh exhibit legit? ›

Van Gogh immersive experience are real-life or virtual reality (VR) exhibits of Vincent van Gogh's paintings. The events, held in cities around the world, are typically set up in large gallery spaces.

How many Van Gogh paintings are in the immersive experiences? ›

—Finally, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, a partnership between producer Exhibition Hub and “entertainment discovery platform” Fever promises to wrap you in more than 400 Van Gogh works using a trademarked video mapping technology.

Why are immersive experiences so popular? ›

It allows users to empathize, be inspired, and learn on a whole new level by convincing them that what they're seeing or feeling is genuine. This is why, when creating an immersive experience the elements of sight, sound, and touch are supposed to be taken into consideration so that it can be much more captivating.

Who invented immersive art? ›

Who invented immersive art? It may surprise people to realise that immersive art has been around since the 1960's. Artists such as Yayoi Kusama in New York and Gustav Metzger in London can be considered two forebears of immersive art. Yayoi Kusama is renowned for her 'Infinity Mirror Rooms'.

Which is better imagine Van Gogh or immersive? ›

Verdict: If you prefer a closer representation of Van Gogh's paintings, “Imagine Van Gogh” is the one to visit. If you're seeking something closer to an IMAX experience, “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” could be the better choice.

Which is better Immersive Van Gogh or Monet? ›

There are a few differences between Immersive Van Gogh and Beyond Monet, but the main one is that Beyond Monet is full of historical context that clearly spells out the show's themes. The former is strictly a sensory experience with little background on the artist provided.

What technology is behind Immersive Van Gogh? ›

Utilizing 53 Panasonic PTRZ770 laser projectors and an internal network, the Lighthouse Immersive team created a mosaic of images that come together to create a wholly immersive, 360-degree experience.

Is the Van Gogh Alive exhibit worth it? ›

If you haven't been, it's a must-see if you find yourself in the Netherland's capital. As well as seeing Van Gogh's most famous masterpieces, you will learn about his life and view how much his moods are reflected in his work. So was Van Gogh Alive worth it? Absolutely!

Is the Van Gogh art exhibit worth it? ›

I recommend it. It is breathtaking! I enjoyed the opportunity to sit and just take it in. Highly recommend!

Is Van Gogh exhibition worth it? ›

Thoroughly enjoyed learning about Van Gogh's life and seeing his incredible art through the Immersive experience. Would definitely recommend if you enjoy art and have a passion for it.

How long do most people spend at immersive Van Gogh? ›

Most people stay for 2 to 3 runtimes or more. It really is a great experience. On average patrons spend a little over an hour in the exhibit.

How do I prepare for Van Gogh immersive experience? ›

7 Tips For Visiting The Immersive Van Gogh Experience
  1. Get a Flex Pass. ...
  2. Ask for earplugs (or bring your own) ...
  3. Wear comfy clothes to sit on the ground. ...
  4. Wear flats (no heels) ...
  5. Come High. ...
  6. Stay for at least an hour. ...
  7. Make sure flash is turned off on your phone.
Mar 25, 2021

Is Beyond Van Gogh same as immersive Van Gogh? ›

Immersive Van Gogh uses 100 projectors to cover more than 500,000 cubic feet, features experimental electronic music, and offers visitors an hourlong experience. Beyond Van Gogh, meanwhile, is the brainchild of Mathieu St-Arnaud and Montreal's Normal Studio.

What is the value of immersive experiences? ›

The Benefits Of Immersive Brand Experiences

61% of surveyed consumers said they would “be more likely to buy from a brand that uses immersive technology” while 47% said “immersive technologies make them feel more connected to brands and products.

What is the power of immersive experiences? ›

Through an immersive experience, you can utilise visual powers to convey your message. Rather than relying on words alone, you can have people see your product in action, viewing how it will work and how it can help them.

What's the difference between regular experience and immersive experience? ›

Regular Experience: Play Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint the way it was released, with gear score and tiered loot. Immersive Experience: A brand-new experience of the game that removes gear level and tiered loot entirely, and offers a bunch of new tactical options.

Who came up with the Van Gogh immersive experience? ›

The exhibit is designed and conceived by Massimiliano Siccardi, with soundtrack by Luca Longobardi, who both pioneered immersive digital art experiences in France.

When did immersive art begin? ›

The earliest known tangible example of the immersive endeavour is early cave paintings. We know that 17,000 years ago a Paleolithic tribe in southern France used vibrant mineral pigments to paint huge magical bulls, stags, horses, felines and other animals right across every wall and ceiling of their caves.

What artists create immersive environments? ›

Artists such as James Turrell and Doug Wheeler use the effects of light to create immersive environments.

Is VIP worth it for Van Gogh immersive experience? ›

There was no line for any of it and often times there were few enough people that you really could see yourself in the works. HOWEVER, although the VIP package is “worth it” monetarily and theoretically, it most certainly is NOT worth more for the average person.

Is the Monet immersive experience worth it? ›

Immersive Monet and the Impressionists is a pleasant way for tourists to spend an afternoon. It could even be a good way to introduce children to art, but be sure to take them to see the real paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago. This is no comparison to real paintings by Impressionists and other masters.

Is the Beyond Monet exhibit worth it? ›

Great experience! The exhibit is divided into two sections, with the 360 degree part that most people hear about being the second. The first features images of Monet's works projected on drapery. They are a little hard to see but the effect is really good.

How long does immersive Monet last? ›

The Exhibition is composed of multiples activities and takes about 1 to 1h30. Along with the 35 minutes immersive show is completed by 3 other gallleries : A unique VR experience (virtual reality) to slip into the skin of Claude Monet.

Does van Gogh have dementia? ›

Van Gogh, moreover, did not suffer from dementia, as can be seen from his writings and paintings right up until the end of his life. He did not show the symptoms of general paralysis, a well-known pathology at the time, or any signs of tabes.

Is Metaverse an immersive technology? ›

The metaverse is one type of immersive experience. It's unique because it's an extensive, shared, interactive, always-on virtual world with a fully functioning economy that operates in real time.

Did Vincent van Gogh have any disabilities? ›

Vincent Van Gogh had temporal lobe epilepsy as well as bipolar disorder. He was born with a brain lesion which may have been aggravated by his use of absinthe. It is believed that his physician, Dr. Gachet, prescribed digitalis to treat his seizures.

How long does it take to walk around Van Gogh Alive? ›

Individual visit times will vary, but most visitors can anticipate spending 60 – 90 minutes. The main feature of the exhibition lasts approximately 45 minutes.

How long does it take to walk around Van Gogh exhibit? ›

How long will it take us to go through the exhibition? – Van Gogh – The Immersive Experience. The visit will take approximately one hour.

Who owns Van Gogh alive? ›

Van Gogh Alive: Bruce Peterson builds $70m success story with Van Gogh and Monet.

Can the Van Gogh experience make you dizzy? ›

Images are interspersed with whole-room immersions of, say, floating petals in the style of van Gogh's Almond Blossoms, or the swirls of The Starry Night, which whirl about the room and across the floor. I am not prone to vertigo, but this room had that effect on me.

How much is the VR experience at the Van Gogh exhibition? ›

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience', 106 Commercial St, E1 6LZ, Jul 29-Feb 2022. Tickets from £19.90 (adult), available here.

Which Van Gogh exhibition is best? ›

Van Gogh Exhibit: The Immersive Experience

Awarded best 2021 immersive experience by USA Today. Ranked among the 12 best immersive experiences in the world by CNN.

Why do you need a cushion for the Van Gogh exhibit? ›

That ticket price included a cushion rental (because most of the seating was on the floor), and once you turned back in the cushion, you received a poster of one of Van Gogh's self-portraits.

Is Raleigh Van Gogh exhibit Cancelled? ›

“Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” was expected to open by the end of March but has been postponed, a spokesman for the event confirmed to The News & Observer. Thursday, organizers said it will be held in a vacant retail space at 6240 Glenwood Ave., in the Pleasant Valley Promenade shopping center.

How long is Van Gogh immersive Las Vegas? ›

It was a magical experience ! On the other hand I didn't like people sitting on the floor ,should be full of benches and chairs. Also the whole show is about 30 min and it is very expensive for a movie of 30 min !

Are there two different immersive Van Gogh exhibits? ›

We started looking into it and realized that Sacramento has two competing Van Gogh immersive experience exhibits. One is in West Sacramento, now extended through the holidays.

What is the difference between Imagine Van Gogh and immersive Van Gogh? ›

Two completely different, but seemingly similar exhibits will feature the Dutch artist's paintings this year. Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition is a projected installation, while Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, is seen somewhat through virtual reality headsets.

What is the impact of immersive art? ›

Immersive art activates the senses and brings the viewer inside the art, augmenting their reality and enhancing everyday life.

What are 5 reasons people make art? ›

Below are just some of the reasons why we make art:
  • To form part of a ritual, ceremony, or cultural tradition. ...
  • To practice faith in a more tangible way. ...
  • To record history. ...
  • To teach something as an alternative to verbal or written methods. ...
  • To tell a story from literature, myths, religion, and poetry.
Apr 2, 2022

What are the 3 reasons people buy art? ›

Here's the top four reasons I've learned that people buy art:
  • Because they know and like you. They see something in you that makes them want to be your friend. ...
  • Your art reminds them of something they value. ...
  • Your art makes them feel an emotion they want to feel more often. ...
  • And lastly, you make art specifically for them.

What are three of the reasons people collect art? ›

10 Reasons Art Lovers Collect Art
  • To support the arts. Dedicated art collectors understand the value art has on society. ...
  • To join a community. ...
  • To preserve history. ...
  • To experience the thrill of the search. ...
  • To adorn their homes. ...
  • To reveal their personality. ...
  • To tell a story. ...
  • To express emotion.
Nov 29, 2016

Is immersive learning effective? ›

Immersive learning is a hugely effective way for many learners to develop their knowledge and skills. It provides artificial, digitally created content and environments that accurately replicates real life scenarios so that new skills and techniques can be learned and perfected.

Does immersive mean realistic? ›

A simple definition would be: An immersive experience elicits the realistic feeling of being there or being present within a virtual space. In other words, the consciousness of a person is transported from their immediate reality to an alternative reality.

Is art made by God or man? ›

Art is made by man and nature by God. However, nature can be enhanced by man. The enhanced beauty and artistry of nature, then, can be classified as an art. Art is cultural.

Is art a luxury or necessity? ›

On the contrary, you could argue that art is neither a need nor a luxury. Usually, art is a natural accessory to human life. While art is not necessary for basic existence, it is definitely an accessory that can make life more meaningful, understandable and attractive.

What are the 5 W's in art? ›

How to sell your art by using the 5 W's: Who, What, Where, When, and Why and How. Many artists sell work themselves out of their studio, online, at co-operative galleries, or even at one of the thousands of art fairs that are so popular.

Why do billionaires buy art? ›

People purchase art during times of risks and uncertainties and profiting, such as during WWII. Today in nations with unstable economies and currencies that are subject to depreciation, the wealthy frequently invest in art as a means of diversifying their risks.

Why do rich people buy fine art? ›

The pleasure of owning it

that it is a famous piece of work. Moreover, this art enriches their immediate environment, their homes, offices, or somewhere in between. They want places where they spend the most time to be aesthetically pleasing. Art hanging down the walls of an office gets the creative juice flowing.

What demographic buys the most art? ›

The trend is most pronounced among HNW collectors. Here, McAndrew's analysis found that millennials purchased the most and spent the most, averaging a total expenditure of $3 million over two years, more than six times the spending of boomers.

How do you collect art if you are poor? ›

Research online and go to as many auctions and fairs as possible. When you're there, find things that you love and then see if there are other works by that artist available elsewhere, perhaps works on paper or less expensive editioned works by them.

Why is art theft so common? ›

One of the key reasons seems to be criminal prestige: stealing a famous painting can boost a thief's reputation within a network and present other opportunities. A valuable work of art can also be used as a form of collateral for future deals or to transfer value across borders.

Who is the target audience for art? ›

Simply put, your target audience is the group of people that prefers the type of artwork you create. You will find the people most likely to buy your paintings or drawings are the people who answer the questions above the same way you answer them.


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