THE organisers of a spectacular exhibition about the works of Van Gogh are looking at projects to “keep a presence” in York city centre.

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, in York St Mary’s, near the Coppergate Centre, has become a popular attraction in the heart of the city since it launched in July 2019.

The We’re Backing York campaign launched by The Press is today focusing on the Van Gogh attraction.

Mario Iacampo, of Immersive Hub, part of Exhibition Hub, which is behind the York project, has spoken about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the attraction. Exhibition Hub is a curator, producer and distributor of large exhibitions across the world.

“We estimate that Covid-19 will have cost us around 50,000 visitors in York – around £550,000 worth of admission revenue,” Mario said.

The 35-minute show involves a 360 degree projection in the main nave of the former church turned arts centre, using the stone arches and high ceiling, as animated versions of over 200 of Van Gogh’s most famous works are projected onto the walls. There is also a virtual reality experience taking visitors through a day in the life of the artist in Arles.

Originally due to close in January, the installation proved so popular that it was extended, initially until mid-April and then until the end of August. A further extension, keeping the attraction in situ until the end of the year, was announced in March, just weeks before Covid-19 forced the closure of all museums and visitor attractions.

“Without a doubt, the closure was a huge blow, as we had marketing campaigns planned to start for the Easter influx of visitors – but of course, that never happened, and lockdown lasted just over 16 weeks when we should have welcomed tourists, groups and school visits,” said Mario.

When the Government gave the go-ahead for museums to reopen from July 4, the attraction was one of the first to open its doors. It was also quick to secure Visit England’s “We’re Good To Go” accreditation, based upon the rigorous risk assessment, safety and cleaning measures in place.

To meet social distancing guidelines, capacity inside the attraction was reduced. Timeslots were adapted to allow visitors to enjoy the immersive experience whilst ensuring that visitors could remain socially distanced within the building. The gift shop was moved up to the previously unused mezzanine floor, and the visitor route through the building changed to ensure that outgoing visitors were not passing those just arriving. From reopening day, visitors to the experience were required to wear face coverings.

Mario said: “Operating at such reduced capacity has, and will continue to have, an impact on our visitor numbers and income, but York is a fantastic city to host this blend of art and technology. Remaining open until the end of the year means that those who had planned to visit before lockdown can still enjoy the experience.”

He added: “We’re now looking ahead at projects that will continue to keep a presence for us in York city centre.”

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is open daily from 10am to 6pm (last admissions at 5pm). Tickets can be prebooked at vangoghexpo.co.uk/York priced at £13 for adults, £11 for concessions and £9 for children.