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Van Gogh Alive – Brighton Dome Concert Hall

Reviewer: Isabella Crawley

Created By: Grande Experiences

With several interactive art exhibits currently finding success across the UK,Van Gogh Aliveseeks to reimagine the works of Vincent Van Gogh, immersing its audience in a multi-sensory spectacle. With a hefty price tag of £24 per person, Van Gogh Alivepromises a lot but, unfortunately, largely fails to deliver.

We first enter a small museum-type area (titled the “Interpretative Area” for reasons that don’t become apparent) that gives us a brief, written overview of Van Gogh’s life. The information here largely summarises everything we are about to see in the SENSORY4 Gallery so, while a suitable appetiser, seems a little redundant. We then take a short walk through a small mirrored room scattered with LED string lights, trampling over Van Gogh’s Starry Night that is printed across the floor (a little reminiscent of a novelty pub bathroom) before entering the highly-anticipated SENSORY4 Gallery.

The newly-renovated Brighton Dome Concert Hall is filled with enormous projected images of Van Gogh’s works, select quotes from his diaries, and occasional slides of information, updating us on where we are in Van Gogh’s life. It is accompanied by a varied soundtrack of classical music, appeasing the second of two total senses (sight and sound) that are involved in this “multi-sensory experience”.

If you’re happy to sit on the floor, it is pleasant to stay and watch. The atmosphere is calm and gentle, the pace unrushed, bordering on too slow, and the range of Van Gogh’s works showcased is unusually wide. For the handful of children visiting, it is largely inaccessible and too slow for them to follow, but they seem less interested in appreciating the artwork and more so in running circles over the images projected on the floor (possibly having the most fun of anyone present).

If compelled to stay for the full slideshow, the gallery experience lasts around 45 minutes, which is the vast bulk of the visit. Afterwards, we are directed upstairs to a replica of Van Gogh’s bedroom, which we are not allowed to touch, and the “Immersive Sunflower Room” lined with yet more mirrors and LED lights, and a few hundred plastic sunflowers in a space the size of a small allotment. To finish, there are papers and crayons to draw along with a YouTube tutorial of Van Gogh’s Bedroom, the usual gift shop, and a donation station to Mind in Brighton and Hove charity tucked in a corner by exit, perhaps the only attempt by Van Gogh Alive to acknowledge the suffering of those struggling with their mental health.

Van Gogh Alive is not an unpleasant experience, but is superficial and tacky. The information about Van Gogh’s life and works is very basic, and the little narrative there is the too-often-heard, romanticised story of a man suffering to bring the world beautiful art, his serious mental illness largely swept over.

Perhaps as a free exhibit for children to walk through and get to interact with Van Gogh’s most famous works is an unusual way, it would be easier to appreciateVan Gogh Alive. However, the £24 ticket price (£19 even for children over five) does not match up to the value of the experience. The Van Gogh Museum itself in Amsterdam charges £17.11 (converted) for entry and is free for under 18s.

If you don’t mind the price, Van Gogh Alive is an unusual exhibit to spend an hour in and see familiar artwork in a non-demanding environment. However, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in an artist’s life and work, or for value-for-money, look elsewhere.

Runs until 3 September 2023

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  1. Having seen the “experience” myself I’m afraid I have to agree with this reviewer. What depresses me is that this show is part of a major media trend now in the 21st century which really amounts to the Disneyfication of art for popular entertainment.

  2. What an amazing experience, I found the whole thing, very moving and the wonderful choice of music to accompany the paintings was truly inspired.
    More experiences like this please!!

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