Know Before You Go: Van Gogh Alive is Sydney’s new “it” exhibition

With COVID-19 cases low, more people in Sydney are looking to get back to a sense of normalcy, alongside, of course, common sense practices to avoid further restrictions and keep the community safe. And that’s great news for Australian company Grande Exhibitions, who have created and, across 50 cities, shaped the innovative, multi-sensory art experience known as Van Gogh Alive.

It’s currently the most discussed art exhibition in Sydney. Originally primed for Grande Exhibitions’ home city of Melbourne, the travelling show was moved to Moore Park’s Royal Hall of Industries where it will remain from now until 22nd November.

So far, it has been an incredible success in cities like Beijing, Athens, Rome and Dubai, and with Australia’s version being three times larger than previous iterations, that twinkling reputation should only be furthered as Sydneysiders dip into the immersive world where technology and sound meets forward-thinking art curation.

In case you haven’t gathered from the name, the exhibition is anchored in the works of Post-Impressionist icon Vincent van Gogh, translating an anthology of his masterpieces into a large-scale, walk-in dream where art lovers stroll through legendary works like The Starry Night, Wheatfield with Crows, and his numerous paintings of Sunflowers.

Large-scale projections, enough to equal 30-40 IMAX screens, dance through the large warehouse-style space with more than 83 million pixels worth of content. This is used to build a flowing narrative of Van Gogh’s evolution as an unknown and underappreciated painter into one of the most celebrated in history, shaped through imaginative displays of his master works, as well as the many, often deeply philosophical, quotes he offered throughout his career.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you grab one of those $30 tickets and head along.

It’s Covid Safe

This is an important one. Van Gogh Alive is the biggest exhibition to hit Australia since Covid-19 spread throughout the world. As such, sensible measures are in place to ensure all art lovers are safe, the exhibition is allowed to continue, and community transmission remains low.

Every single person who enters will be required to wear a mask [properly – don’t wear it under your nose or chin like an idiot, and make sure there’s a proper seal above your nose] and keep it on throughout the show.

Hand sanitiser stations will be available at the door and on your way out, and everything has been carefully considered to create a “non-touch environment”. There is some limited cushioned seating once inside the exhibition, but other than that, there’s nothing here that you could touch anyway.

Entry will be staggered, although the warehouse is quite large with two well-defined spaces. Be aware that capacity will be controlled through timed entry and separate entry and exit points, with each ticketed session ensuring that the ratio of 1 person per 4 square metres can be kept at all times. There is staff inside to make sure of this; The AU Review would like to remind people to take some responsibility and respect the measures being taken.

Lastly, there are mandatory temperature checks at the door, which just require you to simply hold your hand up in front of a machine. It’s quick, painless, and doesn’t at all encroach on your liberties.

Art To Engage

Some art purists may turn their nose at the idea of having such a revered classical artist writ large with technology. That’s regressive thinking. Grande Exhibitions has been at this game for awhile, thinking outside the box when it comes to presenting art and making it accessible and engaging for all ages.

Kids will especially love this exhibition and it may speak to them in a way no traditional gallery can. Hot tip, stand on the side of the big flat screen on the floor that’s closest to the entry and aim straight down, framing the other screen symmetrically – your Instagram will thank you.

Sound is also used to great effect here, although I personally feel the speakers could be strong and the soundstage much wider. Instead, the audio component is flat, but still has the desired effect. From the jovial organs of France, to the delicate sounds of Japan as soundtracks, and various sound effects that accompany the many animations that give these paintings life.

Pay Attention to The Quotes

What often stole the show for me was not the pops of colour beamed by Sunflowers, or the swirls of cobalt and emerald Green of The Starry Night – magnificent as a uniformed display across all screens towards the end of the show – but the quotes that would pop up to exemplify Van Gogh’s story.

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people”; “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”; “I would rather die of passion than of boredom”. These laconic and inspiring quotes help bring more of Van Gogh’s personality to the exhibition, and you understand him better as a result.

Van Gogh Alive is now showing at The Royal Hall of Industries in Moore Park, Sydney. For tickets and more information click here.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.