On the scene at Area15’s 360-degree Van Gogh light show

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at Area15
Photo: Laurent Velasquez / Courtesy

The ticket taker outside Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience tells guests to let the colors and music wash over them—to not simply watch the 360-degree digital art exhibition like it was a movie. The 35-minute display of painterly genius plays on a loop. It doesn’t matter when you arrive or when you leave, as long as you observe the full presentation.

So I took his advice and walked into the living painting. As I sat at a cocktail table in the middle of the large room and ordered a glass of wine, the crows in Vincent Van Gogh’s golden-hued wheat fields took flight and flew across the walls. Inspiring classical music provided a soundtrack to the movement.

With no “plot” to anchor my memories, recollections of the art show appear in my mind as a series of moments: The troubled artist’s self-portraits morph from one to the next, like a time lapse of him aging. A train choo-choos out of a French landscape, as engine noise and whistles overtake the music and the walls are enveloped in steam. Crabs emerge from harbor scenes and dance across the walls. Rain falls. Almond blossoms sway.

The “Starry Night” cocktail ($18)—made with absinthe, elderflower and star anise—hearkens to Van Gogh’s famous painting of the same name. The rich blues, golds and browns of that iconic, swirling image look particularly dramatic when expanded to wall size. To complete the effect, Van Gogh’s distinctive circles of starlight appear on the floor.

Quotes from his letters sometimes accompany the images: “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” “Sketching is like planting seeds to grow paintings.” “Paintings have a life of their own that derives from the painter’s soul.”

The Immersive Experience is the art world equivalent of a popular band’s “greatest hits” residency. That will be enough for some. But if you want a deeper connection to this timeless creative, toss in an extra $10 for a VIP ticket, which offers a completely separate virtual reality tour of Van Gogh’s artistic inspiration. VR goggles take viewers into “A Day in the Life of the Artist in Arles, France.”

This touring show is a perfect fit for Area15’s 7,000-square-foot projection room called the Portal. In fact, Area15 CEO Winston Fisher says in a press statement that the Portal “was created to stage exactly this sort of immersive, 360-degree experience.”

Las Vegas is the first U.S. stop for Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Created by European producer Exhibition Hub, it has already played in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It will go on to appear in other cities, including New York and Boston.

On the weekday afternoon that I attended, Area15 was packed with attendees. The naysayers who questioned the potential success of an experiential art mall have been proved wrong. The Immersive Experience is the ideal accessory to Area15’s other art experiences, which include Wink World, Museum Fiasco and Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart. If you have time, make a day of it and see as much art as you can. Each exhibit is a ladder to a different mindset. See them all close enough together and you might just be propelled into the infinite.

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience Through July 5, Saturday-Thursday, times vary, $25-$35. Area15, 3215 S. Rancho Drive, area15.com/experiences/van-gogh-immersive-experience.

Gogh again

As the old saying goes, when one Gogh closes, another one opens. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience closes at Area15 on July 5. But not to worry, another show—Immersive Van Gogh—opens July 1 at an as-yet-undisclosed location.

Despite arriving in Las Vegas second, Immersive Van Gogh is billed as “the original, internationally acclaimed” exhibit. It has already hosted more than 200,000 guests in many cities, and it even appeared in an episode of Netflix’s Emily in Paris. The hourlong “walk-through experience” was designed by Italian film producer Massimiliano Siccardi, with music by composer Luca Longobardi. It features 60,600 frames of video and 500,000 cubic feet of immersive projections. It’s produced by Lighthouse Immersive and Foster Entertainment. $60+, immersivevangogh.com. –C. Moon Reed

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C. Moon Reed

C. Moon Reed never meant to make Las Vegas her home, but she found a kindred spirit in this upstart ...

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