Van Gogh Alive, an immersive experience of Van Gogh’s works is coming to Adelaide as part of the Illuminate Adelaide festival this July. It will then go on a tour around Australia in the months that follow. To find out more about what to expect, we had a chat to Bruce Peterson of Grande Experiences who created the experience.
Tell us a little about grand experiences and also the specific experience of Van Gogh Alive.
Sure, that’ll probably cover everything! I started what was Grande Exhibitions, we’re now Grande Experiences, back in 2006. I moved to Italy with my young family to develop the largest exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci. We spent 12 months doing that. It was really during that time that sent us on a pathway on how to do things differently because my young family when we were travelling through most of the galleries and museums, in Italy in particular on pursuit of Leonardo and how things were being displayed and presented through their work, they were pretty bored to be honest. My wife and i were enamoured by it all, we’re in the heart of the cultural capital of the world almost but the kids were tugging on the hip pocket within 5 minutes saying let’s go.
And when talking with them a bit more about it, it was the lack of movement and there was no music or noise and it was just silent and it was just not engaging for them. So that really made me look at different ways of doing experiences and when we started on a multimedia pathway back in 2010, we were the first company in the world to do so, it took us 2 years to develop a large-scale multimedia system where we could project up to 6 to 7 metres in height with 20 to 30 screens and ship this all around the world and set this up efficiently and effectively and have a stable system. And because no one had done it, it was starting everything from scratch.
And here we are now in 2021, and we have a dozen odd experiences that tour the world we’ve done 200 exhibitions around the world 150 cities 32 languages, over 17 million visitors, we would be well recognised worldwide as the leader in our field. One of our most successful experiences would be Van Gogh Alive which has now been to 60 cities around the world. It’s just been phenomenally successful because it’s brought a new way of experiencing art and culture to people and in particular those that it might be there first experience or they’re not regular goers to galleries and museums. Having said that we have a lot we still have an awful lot of people that come and love it that go to galleries and museums all the time.
So, it’s not just for the new audiences but we’ve been able to create something that appeals to that full spread. It appeals to the young kids because their able to move around in the environment, there’s projection, there’s movement, there’s music so they get engaged and in awe of the environment, there’s things on the floor which brings it all down to their level and of course you’ve got your older audiences in there as well, there’s families, you’ve got a lot of school groups come through. Have a lot of art groups come through as just a different way of presenting and being able to see a full collection of Vincent Van Gogh’s works, plus all the landscapes and sites that inspired him to paint his art we’re able to represent through the visual medium as well.
What made you choose Van Gogh as the subject?
A couple of defining reasons, probably three. First of all, we’re story tellers so whatever we do we need to be able to tell a story and to be able to educate people around that story. And Vincent has a slightly tragic story but a story to tell that we’re able to get across through the medium without spoken word. Secondly, his artwork is really bright, colourful, big brush strokes, it lends itself to the medium we work in. The third is his popularity, so it was going to be commercially successful, you know that’s the reality of things, we might be able to find good stories and great artwork but we might not have the brand or the subject matter that gets the visitors along.
You’ve toured this particular experience to 60 different cities, do you actually physically need to go to each city to set it up, or do you get measurements for the room that it’s intended to be in and then…?
That’s a good question and really probably been the greatest achievement of our company because prior to COVID we did go to every city to set it up, we would send our project managers and we would have a cast of thousands locally that would help to do this. But when COVID hit and travel restrictions hit we had to find a way to remotely install and be installed. And it’s a very high-tech experience with a lot of moving parts to it and components, and very few people around the world know how to do it. But we’ve been able to train up a whole lot of consultants around the world and work out how to do it remotely.
So even when we opened Van Gogh Alive in Sydney last year and we’re Melbourne based we couldn’t go so we even had to do Sydney remotely. Our ideal still is to go and supervise, they’re big assets that we have and would like to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re all working, but we’re not restricted by it anymore, we can actually do it remotely.
There’s a museum in Paris, the Atelier des Lumières, which does similar experiences; are you linked?
We’re probably as close to a competitor as you can get but they don’t tour what they do. We are a travelling company that started probably 10 years before Paris came along. It’s a permanent experience in Paris. It’s a fantastic environment and there are similarities. It’s more similar to what we’re doing in Melbourne with the LUME, which is a permanent experience. But the touring version that is coming to Adelaide and other cities is similar but different.
Do you envisage that the Monet and friends will also tour Australia?
Yeah, I think it will, we are starting a two-year tour in Australia with Van Gogh Alive so we’ll work through the timings, we’ve got Monet and Friends on in Sydney at the moment and there’s no reason it won’t travel.
Given that it is an immersive but essentially a digital experience, can it be held in two cities at the same time?
Yeah, we have 8 experiences that can all carry Vincent Van Gogh or Monet and friends that are on all around the world, so we’re also on display at the Dali museum in Florida for example, in Mexico city, in the UK, in Norway, Taiwan, Germany, so we’re able to do multiple cities at one time.
What’s in your coming plans? What are you working on at the moment?
We’ve just released the new Monet and Friends and its debut was in Sydney and it’ll move on, but a big one under production at the moment is the world of street art. We’ve taken a look at 35 major cities around the world that all lead in street art, we’ve been on a mission to find the great street artists in those cities and the stories behind the art and everything. It’s been a monumental task but a really enjoyable one and I think that’ll be really different for people because it’s not really something that can be displayed in a traditional sense and we’re able to a really great experience with this in the medium we have, in this multi-sensory medium.
And the other new one is, rather than a particular type of experience, it’s the way we do it, so we developed Digital Lights last year, which is an outdoor display of what we do, we put this on in the harbour in Wellington, 54 shipping containers in a labyrinth layout out and projected onto those and it became an after-dark, from dusk till midnight experience, very successful, very popular, very good in these COVID times where you want to be outdoors and open spaced. Of course, that’s been part of the secret with everything for us, while everything else has been closed, we’ve been going great guns because you can socially distance, it’s all contactless, there’s mask warning signs when required and we can reduce numbers adequately and all the things that come with restrictions and we’ve been able to stay open, it’s been great that we can keep some art and culture going in these times.
How many works are included in the Van Gogh Alive?
It was around 3000 images and videos and everything in all. So, we display all his works and drawings and all his letters to his brother, Theo, and multiple landscapes and inspirational photos and videos etc. from where he painted or the like.
Apart from the works themselves, how would you say Van Gogh Alive differs from Monet and Friends?
Well, they’re totally different stories and experiences in terms of the subject matter but it’s still a walk-through cinematic experience. It’s still multi-sensory, we still have aroma pumping through, we still have all the music, all the defining quotes, all the artworks, so there’s similarities in what to expect.
Van Gogh Alive and what’s coming to Adelaide will be quite unique. It’s in a purpose-built pavilion that we’ve had made over in Germany, so it will tour in this pavilion and inside there will be a huge sunflower mirror room, which we like to refer to I suppose as the selfie room it’s the one where everyone wants to get their photo and put it on Instagram, because it’s quite an amazing room full of sunflowers and mirrors and the like. We also recreate Vincent’s bedroom, so that provides another moment for people to get a bit of a feel for Vincent but also that photo opportunity. You know these are really important elements for people now, to have a shared experience that they can share again.
Are there any dream spaces or places that you’d like to take your works to?
Well, we’ve sort of – I know it sounds silly – we’ve sort of been everywhere unless we want to go to Antarctica! It’s more about where we put our permanent feet down. We now have enough creative content and the like to set up a permanent experience like we have in the LUME in Melbourne. We’re building another one in Indianapolis and one in London. There’s a number of places – it’s more about where we will set up permanent spaces.
All the info you need for Van Gogh Alive is below:
WHAT: Van Gogh Alive, immersive experience
WHERE: Adelaide on the old LeCornu site in North Adelaide as part of the Illuminate Adelaide festival
WHEN: 1 July to 1 August 2021
HOW: Tickets available via the Ticketek website:
- Adult from $35.00
- Concession from $32.00
- *Child (junior) 5 – 12 years from $20.00
- *Child (youth) 13-17 years from $27.00
- *Family (2 adults + 2 children, 1 adult + 3 children) from $95.00
- Student from $32.00
- Group 8+ From $32.00 per person
- *Children 0 – 4 years Free
As mentioned above, Van Gogh Alive is part of the Illuminate Adelaide program. Illuminate Adelaide runs from 16 July to 1 August. You can check out the rest of the Illuminate Adelaide program via its website: https://www.illuminateadelaide.com/
To find out about seeing Van Gogh Alive in other cities: www.Vangoghalive.com/waitlist – join the waitlist to find out when Van Gogh Alive is touring your city and when tickets are on sale
What’s your favourite Van Gogh work?
To find out about other activities happening in your city, take a look at our monthly what’s on for May.