A dream takes flight

Van Gogh’s entire collection comes alive at a multi-sensory exhibition in Tel Aviv.

Van Gogh Alive 370 (photo credit: Rachel Marder)
Van Gogh Alive 370
(photo credit: Rachel Marder)
Over 2,000 paintings, drawings and sketches, comprising the entirety of Vincent Van Gogh’s short but prolific career are on display at “Van Gogh Alive,” a multi-sensory traveling exhibition open through the end of March at The Israeli Trade Fair and Convention Center in Tel Aviv.
Piercing self-portraits of the redhead, breathtaking, colorful street scenes of Paris and sunflowers, the muted tones of Dutch fields and bare landscapes and enchanting starry nights that make-up Van Gogh’s 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings, watercolors and sketches are all presented via 40 high-definition projectors on the walls and other flat surfaces in the dark hall. The works are shown around the room on a 30- minute loop that is mainly chronological but also thematic.
Photographs of Van Gogh as a child and young man with his family, as well as images of the French and Dutch cities in which he lived, churches and other buildings which he painted, are projected. On the walls, floor and columns complementing the dazzling art are excerpts from the 902 letters he wrote over 10 years to his brother, Theo Van Gogh, and friends. The letters give insight into Van Gogh’s joy, dark depression and artistic development.
“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream,” he wrote, projected over a vast array of scenery. “Though I’m often in the depths of misery there is still calmness and music inside of me,” Van Gogh wrote during a darker period. Beside his Starry Night series, a quote reads, “I know nothing of certainty but the stars make me dream.”
An incredible view is seen from any place in the room, with the mammoth and razor sharp images presented via Sensory4, which utilizes multi-channel motion graphics technology and cinema-quality surround sound for the accompanying classical music. Viewers can approach the works or stand back and take in the whole scene.
The images come alive when birds flap their wings out of the paintings and fly off the screen, or when the smoke from the cigarette in Skull of a skeleton with burning cigarette (1885-1886) wafts through the air, or his windmills spin.
A classical musical score, mainly from his period, plays alongside the paintings, timed to the loop and reflecting Van Gogh’s changing moods, techniques and styles. Bathed in sound, light and color, Van Gogh Alive is a relaxing and stimulating way for all ages to experience the postimpressionist artist’s story and gifts.
Van Gogh, born in the Netherlands in 1853, began his career as an artist in his late 20s, and in just over a decade, from 1881- 1890, produced his entire collection. During the last two tumultuous years of his life, before he died probably by suicide, at 37, he painted some of his most memorable and beloved oil-on-canvas works, including The Bedroom and The Starry Night, which was a view he saw from his room at an asylum in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in southern France. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his life, Red Vineyard at Arles, for 400 francs, the equivalent of $1,900 today.
Van Gogh Alive is on a world tour, arriving to Israel via Turkey, where 300,000 visitors saw the installation in Istanbul and Ankara, according to organizers. Grande Exhibitions, the creators of the exhibition, are also touring “Da Vinci – The Genius,” “Secrets of Mona Lisa,” “101 Inventions” and “Planet Shark.”