It’s not easy to have missed the hype surrounding the Van Gogh Alive experience which opened at the beautiful Brighton Dome in May. It sells itself as “the world’s most visited immersive multi-sensory experience” that has “dazzled over 8.5 million visitors across 80 cities worldwide.” So what’s the experience like and does it deserve all the hype?
I deliberately found out as little as I could beforehand because I prefer to have a blank canvas of expectations. My colleague who came with me had researched it in more depth. Most of us know a certain amount about Van Gogh and will recognize his work but at the start of the experience there is an “Interpretative Area”. This highlights the stories behind some of Van Gogh’s most well-known works as well as filling in some of the detail of his life. It’s in bite-sized chunks so great for those of us with a small brain or small children in tow. It’s also a poignant reminder of Van Gogh’s devastatingly poor mental health.
The Sensory4 Gallery
The Sensory4 Gallery is the main part of the experience and you need to set aside time here as it takes 45 minutes. Sit down, lie down, look up, move around, or do a combination of all these.
This is where you are immersed in Van Gogh and unless you’re a major fan, this is where you also realise how little of his work you know. It is set to an evocative musical score, is ever-changing and feels like art at its most accessible. Vibrant colours and Van Gogh’s powerful strokes morph and merge on the vast canvasses that surround you, creating illusions and taking you on an emotional journey. You really don’t need to have any grand understanding of styles and artistic movements, or even of Van Gogh himself, to be moved by the story that unfolds and the powerful gaze of the artist himself.
It’s clever, it’s compelling and it’s very sensual as you’re carried along through the seasons of life. For anyone who has not given much more than a passing thought to Van Gogh’s talents, it definitely takes you on a deeper dive of understanding and appreciation, and if nothing else, being immersed in vast, beautiful colour and emotion is a moving experience enough.
Van Gogh’s bedroom
This area does what it says on the tin. It’s a chance for some photos and a bit of fun but really won’t take you long.
Immersive sunflower room
My colleague had high expectations for the sunflowers but to be honest, they were a little underwhelming.
It’s a fun area, designed for a great Instagram selfie with lots of mirrors to create the illusion of never-ending fields of flowers. But it is a small area and it wasn’t the immersive experience either of us were expecting. Go equipped with this knowledge and you’ll be fine.
We didn’t partake in the activities but this area is a nice idea and runs 10-minute tutorials on drawing techniques.
Worth the hype?
Yes. I came away better informed, moved, and with a more intense appreciation of Van Gogh. The highlight is of course the main hall, and I could have easily done that twice. Perhaps, I’ll go back. There were lots of children present and what a wonderful way to introduce them to an appreciation of art.
There are standard, concessionary, and family tickets available and Van Gogh Alive in Brighton is on until the 3rd of September. You can book here: Brighton Dome
If you’re looking for other things to do in Brighton, you may like: E
cg dazzled over 8.5 million visitors across 80 cities worldwide,