Van Gogh Alive!

Yesterday we went to see the new Van Gogh Alive exhibition at the Brighton Dome. The opening had been delayed, so we actually ended up attending on the first day it was open to the public, which was pretty cool!

I’ve always loved Van Gogh, especially anything he’s painted with a night sky in it. I’ve been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, and I was excited to see how this would be different from the usual museum experience.

A ceiling painted like a Van Gogh starry sky with fairy lights at Van Gogh Alive.
The notes of the fragrance used in the exhibition.

Van Gogh Alive starts very similarly to your usual museum exhibit, with a bunch of panels with text about his work. You could also scan a QR code and get a BSL interpretation which was very cool.

Where it starts to deviate is the fact that the whole place is scented. I adored the scent – mostly sandalwood with some musk, nutmeg, other earthy notes. I was devastated that I couldn’t buy a bottle of it at the end! It reminded me of a couple of my favourite previous perfumes, so it’s safe to say I’ll be looking for a sandalwood fragrance very soon.

Van Gogh quote: In painting I want to say something comforting in the way that music is comforting."
Van Gogh Quote: If the storm within gets too loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself.

Next, you enter a room and are surrounded by white panels. This is where the bulk of the experience takes place. Information about Van Gogh, quotes from him, and his art are projected onto these screens. Classical music plays. It’s lovely to watch, hear and smell.

The one thing that’s a bit weird is that visitors mostly sit on the floor. There are a few low benches scattered throughout, but the majority of people were just sitting on the floor, myself included.

Van Gogh's Starry Night
People sitting on the floor surrounded by white screens with projections of Van Gogh's art.

The whole Van Gogh Alive show is 45 minutes, which is maybe on the cusp of too much time sat on a wooden floor. My feet started to go to sleep!

We also had a few children whose parents weren’t watching them, and let them sort of run around the space which was a bit distracting and took away from the immersive nature of it all.

It was still super enjoyable, and relaxing.

Following the show, you can visit the activity area. This was a bit underwhelming. They have a reconstruction of the painting of Van Gogh’s bedroom, but as I didn’t want my photo taken in it, I didn’t get too close.

Then there was a small bit with loads of fake sunflowers and mirrors, which would be kind of cool if it wasn’t full of everyone else visiting so any photo you take also has the never-ending reflections of strangers in it.

A painting of Brighton done in the style of Van Gogh.
A selfie of me and Kate in the hall of mirrors and sunflowers.

Finally there was a section where people were sketching some Van Gogh paintings. Again, something that would be fun if you were up for waiting and snagging a spot, but not enough space for very many people.

Overall, we loved the Van Gogh Alive exhibition itself. We even bought a signed copy of the special Van Gogh-esque Brighton starry sky print. I just wish people had kept a closer eye on their kids and that the activities were a bit bigger and more immersive.