Beyond van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has swept the world—or a very small corner of it—by storm. With dozens of locations in the U.S., a handful in Canada and additional locations in Peru, Brazil, Chile and Puerto Rico, the exhibit is becoming increasingly popular with people with time to kill and money to spend, and a general unwillingness to go to a real museum. Their newest location is right here in Sarasota, with over 50,000 square feet of exhibit in the University Town Center (UTC). The question is—is the steep admittance fee worth it? The Catalyst sent a staff writer to investigate what the exhibit had to offer, and the answer is probably not.
To get into the Beyond van Gogh exhibition, tickets start at $40 for a timed tour, jump up to $50 for one where you don’t get ushered out after two hours and can jump up even more significantly for access to a few other exhibits. The success of the exhibit is hard to question—it’s clearly gangbusters—but whether it’s worth it is a different question altogether.
The exhibit is primarily projectors. Visitors are sent marching through different hallways and rooms while dozens of van Gogh paintings—some immediately recognizable, some not—are projected onto the walls. Overhead, lilting circus music (and the occasional murmur) plays lightly, building an ambient noise that’s not half bad. The experience is certainly relaxing: they keep the entire exhibition air conditioned, and it’s not particularly loud.
For those hoping for a very in-depth exploration of van Gogh, the exhibit certainly does its job. The sheer scale of it means that all but the most dedicated fans of his paintings and a few art historians will see plenty of new paintings in a gallery setting, which is certainly a benefit. His work is brilliant, and the initial gimmick of them being so big they take up the room is not a bad one.
For those looking for more than that, though, the exhibit is somewhat disappointing. Beyond a few projectors where they can make their own exhibit to put up on the walls, a virtual reality exhibit and the odd themed piece of furniture, there’s not much to do other than walk through and look at the projections of the paintings. Without any new paintings, or even really particularly interesting ways to mix the paintings with reality, the steep entry fee makes the whole experience feel less like an ingenious way of making money and more of a scam for the upper middle class. Its attempts at multimedia seem lackluster at best.
Beyond van Gogh is pricey for what is honestly a pretty uninteresting experience, and it’s hard to recommend to anybody but those with money burning a hole in their pocket or the odd van Gogh superfan.