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The art exhibition of the future

It’s “the most visited immersive multi-sensory experience in the world.” Van Gogh Alive has had more than 8 million visitors across 75 cities worldwide. So, as an art enthusiast and Marketing Manager at an experiential agency, I was intrigued to immerse myself in this new exhibition about one of the best-known artists on the planet and see what event and exhibition planners might take from it.


Emma Townend, Content Strategist


Use the fear of missing out (FOMO). It cannot be overstated that Van Gogh Alive is an influencer’s delight. Beautiful, everchanging backdrops and mirrored rooms of sunflowers are just begging to be shown off on social media. I saw many of these selfies across my social feeds for months before getting to the experience myself.

As experience planners, how can you use FOMO to generate interest? Do you have some key influencers who might be able to generate that intrigue and drive to attendance?




Think outside the box. This experience was not just about walking through a gallery and admiring the paintings. It happened all around you. The SENSORY4™ technology involved around 40 high-definition projectors delivering content onto huge screens. You are literally surrounded by and immersed in the artwork. It’s a whole new perspective on some of the most famous paintings in the world. And there were multiple perspectives. Wherever you stood in the room, there was a slightly different experience awaiting you.

Strikingly, the team behind this experience have added animation to some of Van Gogh’s paintings – a bold move when we think about an artist who is so admired and revered. However, the subtle touches of movement were so delicate and well-placed that they added to the experience and delivered on the “alive” promise of the exhibition name. Starry nights swirled, petals floated, and trains meandered through endless landscapes. The lesson? Don’t be imprisoned by what has gone before, but be sensitive to your audience and give them an experience they haven’t had before. Shaking up the status quo can be a bold and clever move.

Technology can enhance the scale of your event. Each “showing” has a set number of guests. In a standard, busy gallery, I might have struggled to see some of the artwork, but the sheer scale of the projections meant it was accessible, wherever you were within the space. For event planners, it’s a great illustration of how technology can be used to make the experience easy to access and, arguably, attract people who might not have come to a traditional gallery.




Connect with your audience’s emotions. Van Gogh’s tragic struggle with his mental health is well-known. The exhibition features letters from Van Gogh to his brother Theo, which provide a great insight into his state of mind at different points in his life. These letters gave great context to the art of each period and gave the visitor a more emotional connection to the whole experience. This kind of connection makes any event more memorable. Through our pharmaceutical work, we often look at the patients behind the medicine, and this reinforced why we do that.




Let music set the tone. The whole experience is set to classical music, which enriches the exhibition and gives further depth to Van Gogh’s perceived state of mind.

Our Producers have recently completed a few projects where they were able to use bespoke compositions to create a mood. In one conference, we ended with the “Hope Symphony,” which was designed to inspire a pharmaceutical company with stories from cancer survivors treated with their medicines. Music can be used incredibly effectively within events to create atmosphere without the need for words.

Make every touch point great. While I was very impressed by the experience, I don’t think the wow factor was there throughout. The first part of the exhibition was a small, traditional gallery and rather overcrowded, so we ended up bypassing it and perhaps missing out.

I think it would have been great if the experience built up the suspense ahead of entering the main attraction, the immersive journey through Van Gogh’s life and work. Perhaps a countdown could have been used. For any event organizer, it’s vital to consider the whole audience journey and not just your star attraction.

Overall, though, it is no surprise that the Van Gogh Alive concept has performed so well globally. The scale and storytelling are beautifully delivered, with clever use of technology. The immersive nature of the exhibition, coupled with the fact you are experiencing it with others, makes for a compelling experience that can offer inspiration to any event or exhibition planner.



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