The Art of Mastering Multisensory Experience

At Briggs Hillier we are always seeking inspiration, not only within retail but within all aspects of design, architecture, art and culture. The ‘Van Gogh Alive’ exhibition captured our attention for this reason. Van Gogh’s work has been displayed and enjoyed around the world – but never like this. Running from the 8th October 2020 – 31st December 2020, we went along to see ‘Van Gogh Alive’ in Birmingham, UK. The exhibition really is a must-see, providing the opportunity for an experience that is simultaneously enchanting, entertaining and educational.


Global Exhibition

Touring over 50 cities across five continents ‘Van Gogh Alive’ UK’s premier was held within The Birmingham Hippodrome. The Hippodrome has been closed since March 2020 due to Covid-19 and ‘Van Gogh Alive’ has provided the theatre with a new lease of life. Fiona Allan, The Hippodrome’s Director says “We have had to completely rethink how to use the building and how to serve our public. The opportunity to do something completely different with our space, and still provide a high-quality cultural experience, came at exactly the right moment” *.


Immersive Experience

The Dutch post-impressionist painters colourful work including ‘Sunflowers’, ‘The Starry Night’ and over 3,000 more images were displayed at ‘Van Gogh Alive’. The exhibition is brought to life through a 2D digital system known as ‘SENSORY4™’. This runs on a 45-minute time loop showcasing a biography of Van Gogh’s work. SENSORY4™ combines multichannel motion graphics, cinema quality surround sound and 40 high-definition projectors. We couldn’t have predicted just how much we’d enjoy the exhibition. Inspired by the powerful and vibrant symphony of light, colour and sound we were compelled to stay for almost double the exhibitions time loop to immerse ourselves in Van Gogh’s paintings.


Multisensory Storytelling

Walking through ‘Van Gogh Alive’, we were impressed by the informative 2D moving graphics flowing from the projectors, simultaneously merging with the surround sound designed to echo the emotions and experience underlining Vincent’s work. The incorporation of scent within the exhibition was another powerful ingredient. The comforting fragrance composed of notes, cypress, cedar, sandalwood and nutmeg, transported us to the sprawling fields where Vincent painted his masterpieces. These sensory experiences within the exhibition of sight, sound and smell was something we could enjoy both independently, and as part of a larger story.


Changing the Status Quo

The concept of the exhibition itself was inspirational. ‘Van Gogh Alive’ changed the way we typically experience art by forgoing preconceived ideas of traditional galleries and dispelling all notions of tiptoeing through silent spaces to view masterpieces from afar. This notion was reinforced by the Hippodrome teams’ words of encouragement upon entering the space; ‘Don’t be afraid of moving about, sitting, lying and touching all aspects within the exhibition’ – a breath of fresh in a post-pandemic world. The worldwide success of this inclusive exhibition was illustrated by the broad spectrum of our fellow attendees; Family’s with babies and children, students, couples young and old, all drawn to the art for what it was – playful, enjoyable, enriching and nourishing.


Inspiring Retail Experience

‘Van Gogh Alive’ was a truly immersive experience, that focused our minds entirely on our surroundings and transported us to a different world where the essence of Van Gogh’s paintings was captured. This led us to thinking about multisensory experiences within retail, and how all of our senses can be engaged to create a complete brand experience. Certainly, a stroke of genius for exhibition space, and a source of inspiration to create personal, engaging and interactive experiences – so richly demonstrated through ‘Van Gogh Alive’.



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27th October 2020

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