Last Updated on June 17, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Mesmerising multi-sensory experience in London – Van Gogh Alive:
Summer in the City – it’s a chance to picnic in the park, visit the galleries and museums, explore some of London’s sights that you might have been meaning to get round to seeing for years. A silver lining of the pandemic is that London’s tourist attractions are more relaxed than normal, without the throngs of overseas visitors. This summer, there’s one exhibition you won’t want to miss. We checked out the launch of Van Gogh Alive which is running for four months this summer, set in a spectacular 25,000 ft square purpose-built marquee in Kensington Gardens. You won’t miss it, right next to the Albert Memorial and directly opposite the Royal Albert Hall, in the heart of Kensington Gardens.
The show, which brings Van Gough’s works to life in a unique and memorable experience, has already toured 65 cities around the world and amazed over 7 million people. I’d been to something similar in Provence a few years ago, though that show covered a whole range of artists. I was curious to see how Van Gogh Alive – focussed entirely on the work of one man, would play out.
First of all, as I found out in Provence, with this type of experience you need to let go of any preconceptions. The overall experience is far removed from visiting an art gallery so comparing the projections to pictures you may already have seen will leave you disappointed.
In the introductory area, you can learn more about the life and works of Van Gogh with timeline explanations that help set the scene for the main event.
Once you enter the two main sensory rooms, you’ll have 45 minutes to immerse yourself in Van Gogh, learning more about his life, about the family and friends who supported him, about his life philosophy and mental instability.
As you learn more about the artist, his works are projected around you, sometimes animated (the clouds move as if the wind really is blowing for instance), but more often than not static, punctuated by the thoughts and writings of Van Gogh in scripts. There’s a beautifully thought through soundtrack which dictates the timing of the projections. After a few minutes, it’s impossible not to become absorbed in the event.
Outside the main event, you’ll find the immersive sunflower room so those who love Instagram can put themselves in the scene which Van Gogh painted!
And there’s a reconstruction of Van Gogh’s Bedroom that you can walk into.
There’s a great art activity room where you can try to create your own masterpiece. Perfect for families, this has three graded tutorials so all ages can join in.
Of course, there’s a shop where you can buy anything from sunflower umbrellas to facemasks.
And, there’s a café with indoor and outdoor seating, looking out over Kensington Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall. Run by Benugo, it’s the perfect setting for a light lunch – especially as they have sparkling wine from one of my favourite English vineyards, Hambledon.
If you are planning a day out in London it’s really worth including Van Gogh Alive in your schedule. The location makes it perfect as a complement to a picnic in the park or a visit to one of the South Kensington Museums. It’s genuinely relaxing and enthralling. We watched small children literally dancing around us, immersed in the sound and projections while adults stood mesmerised. Catch it while you can.
Show run: June 4 – September 26, 2021
Showtimes: Sunday – Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm and Friday – Saturday: 10 am – 9 pm
Pricing and availability: Ticket priced from £24.00 for adults and £14.00 for children, with concessions available and available to purchase at https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/van-gogh-alive/