Van Gogh Alive: the post-impressionist brought to life in Scotland’s capital

Scottish Field’s Rosie Morton shares her thoughts on Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory experience that has mesmerised over 8.5 million visitors across the globe…

‘I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognise that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.’

I stood mesmerised with Van Gogh’s quote lit up in front of me.

There I was, enveloped by 360 degrees of post-impressionist colour, listening to a cacophony of classic scores from Debussy to Portman that reflected the Dutchman’s heart-breaking tale. It was visually arresting. It was all-consuming. It was, dare I say it, profoundly moving.

Having read the reviews of Van Gogh Alive – the most visited immersive, multi-sensory art experience in the world – I was keen to form my own opinion. Created by the Australian company Grande Experiences, Van Gogh Alive has now been seen by over 8.5 million people in 75 cities across the globe. And at last it is here, making its Scottish debut in Edinburgh’s Festival Square, Lothian Road, opening today (17th March) for an exclusive four-month run.

A cacophony of colour at Van Gogh Alive [Credit: Ian Baker Photography]

Put simply, Van Gogh Alive is a walk-through sound and light show with high-definition projections of the post-impressionist’s works, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in his artistry. It loosely follows his journey through the Netherlands, Arles, Saint Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise, and weighs heavily on the beauty and tragedy of this prolific figure in Western art history.

But for me, it is less a retelling of Van Gogh’s tale, more an attempt to dispel the notion that great works of art need be viewed in silent art galleries. The reaction of viewers around me suggested this will be as big a hit in Scotland as it has been worldwide. When was the last time you encountered an exhibition that was enjoyed by toddlers and octogenarians alike? While children danced through artworks projected on the floors, adults stood back in awe at the spectacular ‘Starry Night’ finale, during which all 30 floor-to-ceiling screens pulsed with vibrant blues and yellows.


‘Starry Night’, the spectacular finale.

Of course, a 45-minute show is no substitute for viewing the paintings at first-hand, and purists may recoil at the thought of a seminal artist’s works being married with modern technology. But the point is not to replace traditional viewings of art. Instead it is to introduce people to a new interpretation of it. The life-size recreation of Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom in Arles’ and the mirrored ‘selfie room’ which boasts hundreds of radiant sunflowers may cater for Gen-Z’s Instagrammers, but this in itself will connect a new audience with post-impressionism.

‘Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high,’ read the final quote, prompting much of the audience to lower their blue-screened phones. ‘Then life seems almost enchanted after all.’

I only wish the hour hadn’t passed so quickly. The tickets are booked for round two.

To find out more or book tickets, please visit their website.

Tickets are £22/20 (concessions) for adults and £15 for children, with school group discounts available. Under 5’s are free of charge.