Van Gogh Alive – Two Experiences

The Van Gogh Alive Exhibition is running until April 12, 2015 at the church of Santo Stefano al Ponte, Piazza Santo Stefano, 5. Two MA of Museum Studies students recently visited the exhibition and wrote about their experiences.

Van Gogh Alive: The Experience
By Jordan Beatty, Marist Italy MA in Museum Studies, 2014-15

Photo by Jordan Beatty
Photo by Jordan Beatty

The Van Gogh Alive traveling exhibition has arrived in Florence, just steps away from the Ponte Vecchio. The multimedia show provides a refreshing contrast to the traditional museum experience, as the masterpieces of Van Gogh are projected as large images and accompanied by a symphony of lights, colors and sounds.

The show, open until April 12th, has been installed in the deconsecrated church of Santo Stefano al Ponte. Although Van Gogh Alive has premiered in major cities worldwide, the Florence edition of the exhibition is the first time it has been set in a church.

Entering the church, visitors are guided through background information about Van Gogh and many of his major works. Viewers are invited to explore the life and artwork of the great post-Impressionist painter from 1880 to 1890 during his time in Arles, Saint Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise – the locations where he created many of his timeless masterpieces.

Entering the nave of the church, viewers are immediately engulfed by a kaleidoscope of light and color created by more than 3,000 images of the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh, synchronized to a powerful classical score. The exhibition fills all walls and even part of the floor, taking an interactive entertainment approach and offering a journey into the creative mind of the visionary artist.

“This is an unprecedented visual and educational experience vying to attract to Van Gogh’s world, his imagination and work, even a public not used to visiting exhibits and museums”, said the Italian curator of the show, Fabio Di Gioia. “It is also the first time that Van Gogh Alive will be part of the unique architecture of a church, and the experience of a multimedia show within Santo Stefano is unprecedented worldwide”.

Van Gogh’s paintings are brought to life through animation and the showcasing of key elements that make his work unique. Viewers are able to appreciate his technique – the fury of his brushstrokes and use of color. Accompanying the artwork are quotes taken directly from the hundreds of letters Van Gogh sent to his brother Theo, offering a unique insight into the mind of the artist.

Van Gogh Alive is an unconventional exhibition in which the viewer becomes immersed in the artist’s work, rather than merely observing it. Preconceived notions of traditional museum visits are foregone in an overwhelmingly invigorating multi-sensory experience. Check it out and see for yourself, the exhibition is open every day!


Art Comes to Life with Van Gogh Alive Exhibition
By Sarah Klein, Marist Italy MA in Museum Studies, 2014-15 

Photo by Sarah Klein
Photo by Sarah Klein

Florence is known around the world for its amazing museums, the Uffizi, Accademia, Palazzo Pitti, La Specola and Museo Galileo just to name a few. These institutions, that we all know and love, hold some of the world’s finest masterpieces and host millions of visitors each year. This spring however, la citta gigliata opened its doors to a new and innovative temporary exhibition: Van Gogh Alive.

A pleasant break from the Florence’s Renaissance canon, Van Gogh Alive is a fantastic multimedia exhibition in Santo Stefano al Ponte (which is located just before Ponte Vecchio). Highlighting the artist’s prolific, but rather short, ten year career as a painter, the exhibition wonderfully displays most of Van Gogh’s masterpieces as well as drawings, sketches, letters, water colors and family photographs.

Once you are ushered through the entryway of Santo Stefano, you are led downstairs to purchase tickets. To mirror van Gogh’s paintings, the first part of the exhibition is filled with brightly colored panels that give the visitor a history of the artist and his works. Each of van Gogh’s masterpieces is featured on its own plaque complete with the traditional biographical and curatorial information. However, once you enter the main exhibition space, your museum experience will become anything but traditional.

The goal of this exhibition is to change how the visitor interacts with art. Although you will not being able to see the original physical painting, this unique exhibition allows the visitor to come up close and personal with van Gogh’s art. The presentation of this exhibition allows you to become immersed in his work rather than just see it from afar. Van Gogh Alive is almost like watching a mini-film on loop; each ‘scene’ focuses on a different style of van Gogh’s work or major periods of transition in his life. To me, one of the most intriguing things about this exhibition is that each section is paired with a musical score that was released that same year as the art being shown. Along with this keen attention to detail, this exhibition can be viewed from 360 degrees. Every piece of the wall, and even some of the floor, becomes saturated with light and color that moves along with musical accompaniment. While viewing the exhibition, it is possible to move around the space to see each painting from a different perspective or you can simply sit on the cool stone floor of Santo Stefano and get lost in the music and the beauty of van Gogh’s work.

As a museum studies student it feels at times as though I have seen almost every museum in Florence, although I doubt that is truly ever possible. This exhibition is a welcome breath of fresh air with a contemporary spin on classic pieces of post-impressionist art that is a joy to see for locals and tourists alike.

For more information about the show, visit:
Exhibition Information:
When: Open everyday until April 12, 2015
Where: Santo Stefano al Ponte, Piazza Santo Stefano, 5
Tickets: €12 – adults, €10 – students

First photo by

Photo by Sarah Klein
Photo by Sarah Klein

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