Gimmicky or great? The multisensory exhibition Van Gogh Alive attracts atypical gallery audiences with music, video, and 3D installations at the Alte Münze. The preview is on from May 14 and full opening May 21.
Trying to make the sort of people who get bored in galleries get excited about art is no easy feat, but those are exactly the visitors that immersive art show Van Gogh Alive wants to attract: little kids, teenagers, and anyone who feels like art galleries are too stuffy or elite for them to visit. Combining music, video, photos and surreal, larger-than-life projections, this immersive installation created by Grande Exhibitions may sound gimmicky, but according to Rob Kirk, Grande’s director of exhibitions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Van Gogh Alive has been a wild success.
Having already shown in cities worldwide from Santiago to St. Petersburg to Tel Aviv, the exhibition comes to Berlin this month. Kirk explains why Van Gogh is the perfect candidate for futuristic reinterpretation, and why he doesn’t care if art critics hate the show. Decide for yourself if the concept is silly or ground-breaking when the exhibit opens at the Alte Münze on May 14.
Where did the idea for immersive, 3D-style art come from?
It was about looking at how we can introduce the subject matter of Vincent Van Gogh to a wider audience, you know, ones that wouldn’t necessarily visit an art gallery. The use of the digital immersive experience that we have created allows us to engage and entertain audiences in a completely different way, and sort of try to tap in to the market that has an interest in Vincent Van Gogh, but wouldn’t necessarily visit an art gallery to appreciate his art. Van Gogh Live was the first exhibition experience we created using our SENSORY4 technology, and since then we’ve created other experiences: Da Vinci Alive, Monet to Cezanne - The French Impressionists, Planet Shark, 101 Inventions That Changed the World.
So you’re trying to encourage people who wouldn’t normally go to an art gallery to visit Van Gogh Alive. Why attend this exhibition instead of a traditional one?
It’s just to experience something completely different, something completely new. There’s a familiarity with Vincent Van Gogh, but there’s probably not an appreciation of why he was so famous. We find that the majority of the population – for whatever reason – can feel intimidated by visiting an art gallery, or not feel that it’s relevant to them, and their social background or cultural upbringing. We’re very conscious about being able to open subject matters like this to a new audience. With the children and the families that are coming in, you don’t feel like you have to be quiet and tiptoe through a gallery, and view paintings on the wall and not know what it is you’re looking at. We’re very happy to have kids dance around with the music and the like. It’s about delivering it in such a way as to entertain people, as well as to kind of educate, and allow them to be immersed in a painting like never before.
More traditional art fans might feel that your exhibition is inauthentic, that you’re diluting Van Gogh's work… What do you think about this?
We’re not appealing to that audience. [laughs] You know? I’m not saying that we wouldn’t welcome them… But that’s what critics do, they’re supposed to criticise. So that’s not an issue from our perspective. We know that the experience has been and is being well-received around the world. We’re not looking to target that higher-end, you know, sort of socio-demographic to come to this type of exhibition. It’s for those who don’t have the opportunity, or want to learn more, to experience something new and different. That’s been very much our goal and our challenge.
Why did you end up choosing Van Gogh?
A number of reasons… You know, he’s the world’s most popular artist, so that certainly helps [laughs]. His artwork is so vibrant, his colours and detail, so that’s another important element. Like I said at the start, when we’re looking at creating these experiences, they have to appeal to a worldwide audience, because that’s what we do as an organisation. What works in Shanghai is what works in Berlin, and it works in Santiago, and Arizona, and wherever. I guess the subject matter of Vincent Van Gogh was a bit of a no-brainer. Once we figured out we could do it, it just kind of made sense.
Sure, his work feels so 3D anyway.
Yeah, when you’re standing in the space, it certainly… it’s kind of hard to convey through static imagery and video. It’s when you’re actually standing in the immersive gallery when you get that emotional kind of experience. It’s not dictated to you in any way. There’s no narration. We’re not trying to tell a story to people. It’s very much for people to come in and just take what they want from the experience itself. It’s kind of reinventing a traditional museum or exhibition visit, so that hopefully people are engaged and entertained at the same time.
VAN GOGH ALIVE Preview May 14, Starts May 21 | Alte Münze, Molkemarkt 2, Mitte, U-Bhf Klosterstr, Sun-Thu 10-21, Fri-Sat 10-22