This is no ordinary art exhibition…
What has become abundantly clear amidst the chaos and confusion of the last seven months is just how essential the arts are, with many turning to art and culture within their own homes as a form of mental stimulation, creativity and self-care.
While I certainly count my blessings, some of the things I have missed the most during lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions have been the theatre and museums. Seeing a show or an exhibition – usually several times a month – provided an often much-needed opportunity to switch off from the stresses of the day, relax and immerse myself in an amazing performance or stunning piece of artwork by talented performers and creatives.
I’m a huge Van Gogh fan, being lucky enough to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, see The Starry Night at the MOMA in New York and Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London and consequently I was ecstatic when I saw that the world-renowned Van Gogh Alive Experience was being premiered at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
It sounded wonderful:
Created by Grande Exhibitions, Van Gogh Alive gives visitors the unique opportunity to immerse themselves into Van Gogh’s artistry and truly venture into his world. Traditions of tiptoeing through silent galleries and viewing paintings from afar in quiet contemplation are forgotten as visitors find themselves interacting with art in ways they never imagined. From start to finish, visitors are surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, colour, sound and fragrance that has been called an ‘unforgettable’ multi-sensory experience.
If there is just one thing that you must see this year, it is this: the exhibition was spectacular. The Birmingham Hippodrome has been transformed beyond all recognition, with the main stage extended out into the auditorium to create the SENSORY4™ Gallery, an open space to walk around and a few benches to allow the chance to simply sit and take it all in from different angles. Following a timeline of his creative life, enormous screens at different levels project Van Gogh’s works, letters and quotes while set to classical music, making it a truly immersive experience.
I took so many pictures but to avoid spoiling the whole experience I have included just a few of my favourites. Click on the images for the full size…
The art did indeed come to life, with some of the paintings even spreading out across the screens as videos. What I found most impressive was that each section created a different atmosphere not only in the images, but by the music that accompanied them. The volume of the music itself along with the darkness of the room enhances the experience – the music is loud enough that conversation was possible but any ambient noise created by other visitors couldn’t be heard and the shadows and outlines of people standing in various areas of the room added to the projections themselves.
The highlight – for me, at least – was The Starry Night accompanied by Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals VII. Aquarium, which couldn’t have been more perfect.
It doesn’t end there. After experiencing the SENSORY4™ Gallery there is a life-sized representation of ‘Van Gogh’s Bedroom’ – one of his most famous pieces of work. Incidentally, I walked out of the exhibition to find Brummie chef Glynn Purnell stood in the middle of it which, while not part of the bedroom, was a nice surprise! On the upper floor of the Hippodrome is an Art Activity Area, where graded video tutorials give the opportunity to try out drawing techniques for yourself.
And finally, there is the Immersive Sunflower Room, a mirrored area filled with sunflowers that provide brilliant opportunities for selfies. I couldn’t help myself, although I haven’t learned the art of ‘smizing’ under my mask yet.
I have been super careful since the pandemic began to stay as safe as possible, and the Birmingham Hippodrome has gone to great lengths to ensure that the exhibition is COVID-19 compliant. With timed entry, compulsory masks, hand sanitising stations everywhere and more than enough space to be able to socially distance, it was possible to enjoy the experience without worrying as much as I usually do about the safety of myself and those around me. To find out more, visit here.
Van Gogh Alive: The Experience is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 31st December 2020. To find out more and to purchase tickets, visit here.
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