‘Emily in Paris’ Fueled a Frenzy for Immersive Van Gogh ‘Experiences.’ Now a Consumer Watchdog Is Issuing a Warning About NYC’s Dueling Shows

It's "Immersive Van Gogh" vs. "Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience."

Promotional image for Immersive Van Gogh, one of two rival Vincent van Gogh-themed experiences coming to New York. Photo courtesy Immersive Van Gogh.

Buyer beware! That’s the message from the New York Better Business Bureau (BBB) when it comes to immersive Van Gogh experiences.

As Artnet News previously reported, no fewer than three companies are currently on a mission to bring large-scale projected images of paintings by the Dutch master to cities across the U.S. Such installations have already sold millions of tickets abroad, but the trend was kicked into high gear in the United States when the Van Gogh-themed light show from Paris’s Atelier des Lumières was featured as a romantic destination in the Netflix show Emily in Paris.

If you are in New York City, you will soon have the choice between two competing experiences. One is “Immersive Van Gogh,” which boasts a connection to Massimiliano Siccardi, the Italian director behind the Atelier des Lumières Van Gogh experience. It opens June 10 at a top-secret venue with “500,000 cubic feet” of projections “in the heart of NYC.” Tickets will run you $40 at off-peak hours, $50 peak.

But don’t confuse this with “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” an entirely different light show that has toured the world, produced by a company called Fever. It, too, opens in June; its location is also, as yet, a secret. Tickets range from $25 for kids at off-peak hours to $65 for adults at certain hours; VIP tickets include a VR feature.

Promotional image for <em>Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience</em>. Photo courtesy Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.

Promotional image for Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Photo courtesy Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.

Confusion about the two shows has resulted in a surge of complaints about Fever to the BBB. Many customers who purchased tickets to “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” are angry at being tricked by what they perceive to be a knock-off Van Gogh experience, and not the one connected to Emily in Paris.

“The key thing is there’s so many Van Goghs,” said Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the BBB of Metropolitan New York, told Artnet News. “Maybe it’s as a result of the pandemic and people wanting to get out into experiences where they will be social distancing. But whatever it is, there are a lot. The takeaway is, you have to do your research to know what it is that you’re purchasing.”

After 55 complaints over the last 12 months, Fever at one point had an F rating with the BBB. Since Fever is now working to resolve those complaints, the BBB has changed the rating to “No Rating,” or NR.

Lorraine Anderson, of Brewster, New York, 50 miles north of Manhattan, figured she had found a great anniversary present when she saw some friends posting about a Van Gogh light show on Facebook. When she bought tickets for Fever’s event, she thought she was going to get the Emily in Paris experience.

“Who’s mimicking who?” she told Artnet News in a phone interview. “I felt like Fever was poaching customers by having such similar titles. Somebody ought to say, ‘This isn’t kosher.'”

Tickets to “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” are non-refundable, according to the FAQ page. On the other hand, spokespeople tell Artnet News that “our general policy is to refund users that complete a purchase accidentally, as well as to support those that require assistance due to change of dates or other needs.”

Anderson did eventually get her money refunded, which she said Fever reps told her they do under exceptional circumstances.

Artnet News’s own critic, Ben Davis, who’s been assigned to cover the immersive Van Gogh phenomenon, was among the confused. “I am one of the people who bought a ticket to ‘Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience’ not knowing that there were two different experiences,” he says. “It didn’t even occur to me. I feel ridiculous.”

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