The Van Gogh Alive exhibit in the Royal Hall of Industry in the Entertainment Quarter utilises state-of-the-art high-definition projection and surround sound to bring the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh.
The main exhibit takes place in a vast space with dozens of giant projection screens surrounding you on every side: 83 megapixels in total on the equivalent area of 7 IMAX screens. Starting simply on a map to show you his movements and early life, it takes you through his early career and paintings and gradually explodes into the colour he’s known for, using classical music to accompany the story and Van Gogh‘s artistic progression. Some minor animations have been tastefully added to lead your eyes around the room.
While it’s easy to be smug about Van Gogh’s work not needing gimmickry to stand on its own, this 45-minute exhibit is so vast and immersive that it’s just churlishness to be superior about it. The musical choices are a little on-the-nose and hackneyed, but then Van Gogh’s paintings and tragic story have also fallen into the realm of cultural cliche at this point and so it doesn’t feel entirely inappropriate. It’s certainly novel to see his paintings at this scale.
The overall effect of this installation is to make you feel like you’re stepping into the paintings, and it does it really well. This exhibit doesn’t add any particularly new or deep understanding to Van Gogh but if his work has now become so ubiquitous as to generate a shrug from most people, having it blasted into your eyeballs like this really does bring it alive.
A Note: one of the screens on the far right from the entrance is dedicated to quotes from Van Gogh’s letters. These are often quite moving and so it’s a good idea to select a viewing spot with this in mind.