In 2021, as the world slowly emerged from pandemic lockdown, perhaps the biggest cultural phenomena to rise from the ashes of COVID-19 was the craze for digitally animated projected light shows based on masterpieces by art-historical greats such as Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, and, of course, Vincent van Gogh.
Now, Lighthouse Immersive Inc., the Toronto-based company behind the best-known exhibition in the genre—”Immersive Van Gogh” of Emily in Paris-fame—has filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in Delaware, Bloomberg reports. The July 28 filing is a strategy to protect the company’s U.S. assets during insolvency proceedings in Ontario.
“Immersive Van Gogh” touched down in New York in June 2021 after runs in Paris, Chicago, and Toronto. Originally designed by Massimiliano Siccardi with an original score from Italian composer Luca Longobardi, the New York production also brought on Broadway producer David Korins, who staged the original Hamilton, to add some extra sparkle to the Starry Night.
Its impressive production values and successful marketing campaign (including weed nights) saw it sell 250,000 advance tickets as exhibitions proliferated across the U.S. and overseas. A contestant on The Bachelor even called a visit to the Los Angeles location “the most romantic moment of my life.”
By May 2022, there were over five million tickets sold—or one for every 90 Americans. Today, there are permanent Lighthouse Art Space venues in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Antonio, and Toronto.
The success of “Immersive Van Gogh” spawned many, many imitators eager to stage easily replicable exhibitions with low insurance premiums compared to traditional art shows physically including high-value canvases.
With at least five competing Van Gogh outfits, the New York Better Business Bureau even went so far as to issue a warning to consumers that Fever’s “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” was not the “Immersive Van Gogh” light show featured on the popular Netflix series starring Lily Collins.
And then there were the knock-offs for other artists—including living master David Hockney, whose immersive animated light show “Bigger and Closer” got mixed reviews when it opened in February. Lighthouse alone has also staged productions of “Immersive Frida Kahlo” (with the artist’s family’s blessing), “Immersive Monet and the Impressionists,” “Immersive Vatican,” and “Immersive Shevchenko,” featuring Ukrainian artist Taras Shevchenko.
Lighthouse’s website boasts sales of over seven million tickets in 21 North American cities. But over the last two years, demand for so-called “immersive” digital projections of beloved artworks seems to have waned, perhaps due to an over-saturation of the market.
“Immersive Van Gogh” is still on view in Vegas (through January 7, 2024), Detroit (through October 1), Toronto (through October 29), and Chicago, where it is part of a two-for-one showing with “Mozart Immersive” (through September 4). There are currently no sold-out dates at any of the venues. The company’s only other current offering is “Immersive Disney Animation,” now on view in 12 cities.
There also also plenty of tickets available to the immersive Van Gogh show that reopened July 1 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art Galleries at Newfields. In 2020, the institution announced controversial plans to replace its contemporary art floor with a permanent immersive digital art gallery called the Lume. It launched, of course, with the company’s homage to the famous Dutch Postimpressionist, the touring version of which is called “Van Gogh Alive.”
While there aren’t any Van Gogh immersive experiences on view in New York City, “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” opened in Westbury, Long Island, in March, and is on view through September 4. (Once again, there appears to be no shortage of available tickets at the moment.)
Tickets to Lighthouse Immersive exhibitions, reports ARTnews, started at $22 to $37.
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