6 June 2024

Some of the much-loved paintings by Dutch Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh are dancing around the walls in a brand new multimedia art exhibition that opens in Thailand’s capital today.

“Van Gogh Alive Bangkok” showcases more than 3,000 of his works including the famous “Starry Night,” “Sunflowers,” and “The Potato Eaters”  in a unique and immersive way using state-of-the-art technology to project high-resolution images onto walls, floors, and other surfaces, accompanied by a synchronized soundtrack and lighting effects. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about this world-renowned Dutch painter and take a journey through his life.

“The reason we’ve chosen Van Gogh as a key artist is because his story is truly fascinating. He was an active artist for 10 years but struggled with his mental health and this affected his paintings over time,” said Devin Ma, co-founder of LIVE IMPACT, the exhibition’s organizer.

The Sunflower mirror room is very Instagramable. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

He added that the life of Van Gogh combined with the vibrancy of the colours in his art combined to make perfect material for the high-technology presentation. Those bold colours, thick brushstrokes, and his unique style are brought “alive” using an innovative multisensory approach.

Visitors can enjoy following Van Gogh’s emotional journey through paintings from the Netherlands, Paris and the South of France until the end of his tragic life at the age of 37.

“I could have quite happily stayed in the immersive room for hours,” said a press member at the preview held on March 30.

Most of the press were also impressed with the background music that complements Van Gogh’s art.

Van Gogh’s Bedroom. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

Having been organized in 85 cities around the world, “Van Gogh Alive” has received positive reviews as it allows audiences to easily digest art in a new and interactive way.  About nine million people have seen the exhibition to date and even as Thailand is hosting the “Bangkok” event, “Van Gogh Alive” is being held concurrently in 7 countries including Malaysia, Japan, Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

“We never had this great a venue before,” commented Ma in reference to the size of the Bangkok show, which at 4,120 square metres, is the largest the company has done so far.

The show is divided into a journey where audiences revisit the life of Van Gogh starting from the first room, which features his key art pieces and recreates his  “bedroom” in Arles, where viewers can sit on his bed or on a chair to take photos. The “Bedroom” is said to have been one of his favourite paintings.

Viewers enjoy walking on this bridge. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

From there, audiences walk into the highlight – the sensory gallery hall showcasing over 3,000 of his paintings from the sombre hues of his early years in the Netherlands to the brighter palette of the style influenced by impressionist-era Paris , to the happiest time of his life in Arles, and his self-portraits.

The digital art images are showcased utilizing SENSORY4™ technology, featuring a kaleidoscope projection on the floor and a massive wall over 6 metres in height. This awe-inspiring display is accompanied by cinematic surround sound music, creating an incredibly engaging experience.

“We could imagine the ideas and emotional turmoil in his head,” said one viewer at the preview.

11 Vincent Van Gogh Self Portrait. (Photo Courtesy of LIVE IMPACT)

And music is not the only sensory delight. Visitors will also enjoy faint hints of the comforting scents of cypress, cedar, sandalwood, and nutmeg with the bright accent of lemon and vetiver that transports them to the orchards, gardens, and sprawling fields where Van Gogh painted his masterpieces. However, the fragrances go almost unnoticed as the organizer has deliberately made them weak to avoid triggering any allergies.

“This is a way to introduce art to new audiences who would not have the opportunity to visit art galleries in Europe. It also engages audiences in the subject matter. They are inspired to learn more about the artist and the art,” said Rob Kirk, head of touring experience of Grande Experiences, creator of the Vincent Live.

An art classroom for everyone. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

Kirk said the company has spent 15 years creating exhibitions and experiences around the world. The company first saw an opportunity with the development of projection technology in 2009. Back then, it was in a basic form yet accessible economically and from there, the company has developed it to its present form.

The show can be adapted to fit different spaces such as  a theatre (UK), an art museum (Japan) or a castle (Sweden). Another outstanding characteristic of the show is allowing locals to take part. In Thailand, areas like the “Wheat field with Crows” are painted by Thai artists and the souvenirs for VIP ticket holders are made by a Thai community in the North.

Van Gogh inspired by Japanese art. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

The creator and organizer said the exhibition should attract Gen Z and Millennials as well as young parents who want their kids to have a unique experience with art. There is an art classroom for youngsters and enthusiasts of any age to learn from Van Gogh’s masterpieces.

The exhibition is very Instagramable too. The beauty of the art and the creative way in which it is presented make for countless photo opportunities. Apart from the sensory hall, the Sunflower Mirror Room is also a spot where countless artificial sunflowers simply brighten the day.

Then there is AI Interactive room where one can take a photo with an AI camera that transforms visitors’ photos into painting-like images. This area is expected to be highly popular with audiences, as they can take home with them (at an extra cost of 250 baht with photo frame) a “Van Gogh-styled” photo.

Snap a Van Gogh-style photo and take home a memory. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

The traveling multimedia art exhibit should attract various generations – old and young – and engage them. As has been the case elsewhere, the exhibition is expected to quite crowded and busy. In Thailand, the organizer expects to draw up to 1,000 people a day on weekdays and as many as 2,000 on weekends and public holidays. Where possible, it is recommended to avoid the busiest days to get the maximum experience and pleasure from the exhibition, especially in the multimedia Sensory-4 room.

The time spent in the S-4 room could be 40-45 minutes or longer for those who would like to really absorb the art and music. The tour takes up to 1.5 hours depending on the time you spend in other areas. At the end of your journey, Van Gogh and his works in all forms await to greet you at a shop offering bags, magnets, pins, scarves and notebooks – all reminding you of his life and masterpieces.

Van Gogh souvenirs are available at the shop. (Photo by Dae Warunee)

This travelling Van Gogh Live is a must for any art enthusiast. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours learning about the artist’s life, his town, his happy moments and his emotional turmoil, and perhaps be inspired to plan a trip to see his real works in a museum.

If you go:

  • Van Gogh Alive on the theme “I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream” runs from March 31 to July 31, 2023, on the 6th floor of IconSiam from 31st March- 31st July, 2003.
  • Various ticket options are offered, including VIP tickets priced at 1,490 baht, General tickets at 990 baht, and Early Bird tickets at a discounted price of 690 baht (valid until April 30, 2023.
  • IconSiam is on the bank of Chao Phraya on Charoen Nakhon Road and accessible by ferry, BTS Skytrain, bus, and car.

By Veena Thoopkrajae