Van Gogh Alive in Edinburgh promises to turn his masterpieces into 'immersive multi-sensory experience' – Susan Dalgety

January is a dreich month. Even when the sun is weakly shining, it still feels grey.

Monday, 3rd January 2022, 12:30 pm
A self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh on the ground floor of the Vincent van Gogh museum in Amsterdam (Picture: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Walking past Festival Square on Lothian Road a few days ago, on my way to the (socially distant) cinema, I was struck by how drab it looked in the midwinter light.

Empty but for a clock tower and a few benches laden with fast food detritus, it looked abandoned, a waste of space. But – such is the magic of cities – in a few weeks’ time, the square will become a dazzling wonderland.

For four months, from 17 March, Festival Square will come alive with the works of Vincent van Gogh, one of the world’s most celebrated artists.

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Instead of rain-streaked concrete slabs and empty red and yellow burger boxes, there will be glorious sunflowers, starry, starry nights, and sunshine straight from the Med.

The exhibition Van Gogh Alive is billed as the “most visited immersive multi-sensory experience in the world”. To date, over 8.5 million visitors across 75 cities have enjoyed its delights which are, again according to the blurb, unlike any previous exhibition.

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Forget tip-toeing silently round a gallery, viewing paintings from afar, says the website. Here, in Festival Square you will be “surrounded by a vibrant symphony of light, colour, sound and fragrance”. Van Gogh’s masterpieces will come to life, it promises.

I, for one, cannot wait. I have been very lucky to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam not once, but twice.

It is a masterclass in how to curate an art collection. It tells the story of how van Gogh taught himself to become one of greatest artists the world has ever seen, and how his creativity eventually destroyed him.

And it’s a family affair. The van Gogh family gave their extensive collection of Vincent’s work to the museum on permanent loan and his descendants are still involved in its running today.

Thanks to their generosity – four years ago one of Vincent’s paintings, Laboureur Dans Un Champ, painted from the window of his asylum, sold for $81 million – the world can still enjoy most of his life’s work.

And for several months later this year, Edinburgh will be able to revel in the genius that was Vincent van Gogh.

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