Theatre

Interview

We chat to Grande Exhibitions’ founder Bruce Peterson about Van Gogh Alive

Get ready to experience art in a whole new way!

By now you might have heard the news – the world’s most visited multi-sensory experience Van Gogh Alive is set to land in New Zealand in 2021.

Bringing together over 3,000 of the Dutch master’s works, if you’re an art fan of any kind Van Gogh Alive is not to be missed.

We wanted to find out some more about what we can expect when the exhibition comes to New Zealand, so we sat down with Grande Exhibitions’ founder and owner Bruce Peterson to dig a little deeper before Van Gogh Alive opens in New Zealand.

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As the founder and owner of Grande Exhibitions, Bruce Peterson has been behind many of the internationally acclaimed exhibitions and experiences you might have heard of. From The Leonardo Da Vinci Collection to Alice – A Wonderland Adventure and 101 Inventions that Changed the World, Peterson an his team pride themselves on finding new, creative, and immersive ways for people to enjoy art, culture, history and science.

His latest creation, Van Gogh Alive, has already been enjoyed by more than six million people across 65 cities around the world, and now it’s finally New Zealand’s turn.

What is your first memory of experiencing Van Gogh’s works? My mother is an amateur painter, and her mother too, so artist books were always lying around the house. Vincent’s works always caught my eye from an early age simply because of the colours.

For many visitors, Van Gogh Alive will be a whole new way of experiencing art, what led you to wanting to present Van Gogh’s work in this way? During a family holiday in Europe many years ago, I took my young children to several galleries and museums. Whenever I found myself engaged in an artwork, I’d feel a tug at my sleeve as the kids just wanted to leave and get a gelato. It ignited something in me to explore what would keep them interested and hold their attention. And that then really extended to very large numbers of people that are not engaged in art and culture.

As a company, we had established ourselves as world leaders in artefact-based Leonardo da Vinci exhibitions, but we started looking at other concepts to present internationally, and that is what led us down a pathway of exploring projection technology as a medium to tell stories and engage our audiences further. At the time, the technology was becoming more robust and accessible and after a few years of rigorous R&D in Melbourne, Van Gogh Alive was born.

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What is it about Van Gogh’s body of work that lends itself to this experience? The vibrancy of Vincent’s artwork is perfectly suited to large-scale immersive projection environments and there is also significant interest and intrigue with audiences globally in Vincent’s story and the challenges he faced with mental health – a subject matter that is at the forefront of discussions right now and rightly so.

His art is also regarded as some of the world’s most iconic, popular, and widely recognised, and so I feel it is the combination of all these factors working together that creates such an emotional and enjoyable outcome for every visitor.

What is your favourite part or element of Van Gogh Alive? I love how we have found the perfect music score to accompany the visual experience. It wasn’t an easy task by any measure. Having presented Van Gogh Alive in over 65 cities to date, many of which I have visited personally, I still get the hairs on the back of my neck standing up when I’m in the immersive gallery taking it all in.

What can visitors expect from their experience in Van Gogh Alive? Van Gogh Alive isn’t here to replace visits to traditional institutions, or original art. To the contrary, our objective is very much to engage more audiences in a different way that they might find more appealing. When you see a Van Gogh in high definition with some subtle animation, you see every single brushstroke in detail. 

Combining this with our evocative audio score as well as aromas dispersed across the gallery space, it’s a great opportunity to experience art and connect with creative culture in a completely new way.

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Talk to us about the multi-sensory elements of the show – how did you and your team go about bringing that idea to life? We have a very talented in-house team of creative designers, motion graphic experts, graphic designers, and skilled audio-visual production managers who have all contributed to take my idea from concept stage through to final execution and help realise the vision I had.  

Our unique touring system, SENSORY4™, combines multichannel motion graphics, cinema quality surround sound, up to 40 high-definition projectors and selected aromas that evoke a connection with the subject matter to provide one of the most exciting multi-sensory environments in the world. These all work in unison to gift the audience with an amplified outcome from their experience.

How have audiences around the world reacted to the exhibition and has it been different from country to country or even city to city? We find it to be an experience that garners the same emotional reaction and enjoyment around the world and is something that seems to transcend age, ethnicity, culture, and background. From Sydney and Shanghai to Santiago and Seville, audiences globally have warmly embraced the experience and flocked in huge numbers to see it.

You’ve taken immersive experiences to a whole new level – what technologies are coming, or do you hope will be available soon? Watch this space! We are constantly researching new technologies and techniques, continually innovating, improving, and enhancing our exhibition experiences. Whatever path we decide to take next we will always ensure they remain shared experiences that engage, entertain, and educate visitors on a global scale.

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Van Gogh Alive will tour Wellington, Christchurch, and Auckland throughout 2021. The exhibition opens in Wellington on Tuesday 12 January. Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.co.nz.