If you've been spending a (borderline illegal) amount of time on social media lately, you would have undoubtedly seen and heard about the latest and most anticipated exhibition that's attracting a crowd of people to North Adelaide lately. I am, of course, talking about the Van Gogh Alive experience.
What is it?
A "multi-sensory experience" that lives up to the hype, the Van Gogh Alive exhibition is a must-see exhibition that is ideal for adults and kids alike to explore and enjoy, given that is a unique experience and outing that will shine light on one of the most celebrated artists of our time. While it has been 131 years since Vincent Van Gogh's death, his legacy has lived on for as long as we can remember. His artwork has been displayed at art galleries all over the world and with it, complementary merchandise that is painted in his stoic and compelling pieces has found residence in almost every individual's home in one form or another.
In a bid to revolutionize the way exhibitions go, this beautiful installation in the heart of O'Connell Street has created a sensory-stimulating environment with advanced audio-visual technology that portrays Van Gogh's iconic pieces across floor-to-ceiling screens that illuminate the space in vibrant and colorful glory. Offering audiences with opportunities to explore three spacious rooms that are intertwined and connected to each other for easy flow and access throughout your visit, Van Gogh Alive in The Grand Pavilion has succeeded in attracting a wave of people of all ages to come along on this exciting and educational journey of appreciating the essence of art.
So, who exactly is Vincent Van Gogh? Born on 30 March 1853, Vincent Van Gogh was from Zundert (The Netherlands) and most of his work has been heavily inspired from his upbringings that illustrated the divide between those above and below the poverty line. After a heartbreak in his early 20s that gave Van Gogh deep depression and working through it in an erratic form, he turned to art at the age of 27. From there, over 2000 pieces of original artwork came into eloquent form (including 930 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches). They are now some of the most coveted pieces of artwork that fetch figures close to the millions range.
Walking through my exhibition experience My friend and I visited Van Gogh Alive at 10am (the first session of the day) on a beautiful and sunny Tuesday morning. It was the second week of the school holidays, so the line extended to at least about a quarter of a kilometre down from where the exhibition was held. While the size of the crowd initially caused a great deal of anxiety, upon walking in, all that anxiety seemed to dissipate by a major chunk.
Walking in, you are welcomed by a range of rooms, visually-pleasing rooms, and 'break out' areas, which allowed for the crowd to immediately disperse in all possible directions. While it may appear to be a deceivingly small space at face value, there is actually quite a bit of room to explore and appreciate Van Gogh's art and life through various forms of auditory and visual stimuli.
Before getting straight into the highly-anticipated portions of the exhibition, we saw a gorgeous Lexus UX parked left-of-centre, which was adorned in Van Gogh's highly recognizable work Starry Night. While we didn't try or see anyone being able to take advantage of its interiors (most likely due to COVID-safe regulations), it was a car that quickly made an impression enough to want to purchase one for myself (one day, I am hopeful)!
To our left was set up a cute nook of a cafe corner, with its seating area quickly populated by families, friends, lovers, and everyone in between sipping on cuppas while taking the space in. People watching and gathering your senses for what awaited us was primarily achieved from this little space here. Painted with the Arles period that encapsulates a bustling Cafe Terrace at Night, it's no surprise that you will feel immersed enough to be part of the great artwork itself!
To our right, we saw a humble life-sized replica of Vincent's Bedroom in Arles, which has a fantastic balance of real and art-based elements to add a touch of mystery and intrigue into how Van Gogh may have spent his time in this room concocting the work that he is extremely well-known for today. This can be attended to either before or after the exhibition experience.
Making our way deeper into the heart of the exhibition, we first made our way into the Starry Night room. Decorated from floor to ceiling in his iconic artwork, the room came to life with fairy lights that were hanging from the ceiling and offering visitors with the perfect photo opportunity to feel like they are in another world. The room itself is quite tiny and cozy and doesn't offer much room for social distancing. Nonetheless, most people were compliant enough to respect the space (personal and exhibition-based) to enjoy a little section and take photos with / of each other to their heart's delight. Expect to spend anywhere between 10 - 20 minutes, depending on how much you are looking to appreciate the details within the room.
Next up, the room that has been photographed and shared from every possible angle on social media: the Sunflower room. Staying true to its name, we walked into this section and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by the bright yellow sunflowers (fake flowers) that momentarily made us feel like we were transported back to summer. While it's not warm in there, the vibrant colours that were bouncing from every corner put an instant smile on our face and filled our eyes with genuine awe. While it would have been pretty cool to see the sunflowers mirrored in the ceiling for that heavily immersive and sensory effect, this was a room that unfailingly attracted us back into the space multiple times during our visit. Expect to spend anywhere between 15-30 minutes in this space, depending on how electrically charged your senses are and how much you love sunflowers!
We then proceeded to make our way into the SENSORY4™ Gallery. All we could say was WOW. The space is carefully sectioned out to present Van Gogh's incredible artworks across various large-scale screens - not only those hanging from the ceiling, but also those that were perched horizontally along the base for kids and adults alike to chase the light and jump around in. This is where the strength of your senses is put to the test, where everything that is presented to you in word-based form and art-based form will blow you away. After wandering around the space for a few minutes, we were luckily able to find a prime seat that allowed us to study and take in crucial snippets and moments of Van Gogh's life; including what his early years looked like, how his work progressed with his own personal achievements and challenges, and how he became to be the grand artist that we all love and admire to this day. While I couldn't stop staring at the artwork that made its way to the screen (and often animated to literally bring those pieces to life!), it was the emotive classical soundscape that touched my soul in ways that words will never comprehend.
Final thoughts on the exhibition
While we didn't opt for the Sunflower bundle (which is in addition to your ticket price), we felt that the $35 price point was well worth what we experienced. It's an exhibition unlike any other and I would highly recommend that you go and watch it while it's here in Adelaide. It's a one-of-a-kind experience that will tingle your senses and take you on a journey that you won't be ready for, in the best way possible. If you prefer to go to a show with no kids, the experience time slots after 9pm might be worth considering, although they may be more expensive (for example: Saturday sessions usually look at a $50 or more price point but the 11pm - 12am slot has been fairly popular and highly recommended). For those looking for a quieter time, a weekday morning might be your best bet, especially since school holidays end on the 18th of July.
The Van Gogh Alive Exhibition has been extended in its season due to popular demand. It will now be running till August 22nd, 2021. Tix can be purchased here.
Not worth the money. Would have better presented in a theatre. Too much to take in as it swirls around the visitor. If you can find a seat, or if you’re short, the art display is blocked by other visitors who become taller as they raise their cameras above their heads. Pity, because the projected art is fantastic.