Van Gogh is a go: new start date confirmed for delayed Brighton exhibition
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This week’s opening was delayed for “further work (…) to ensure critical safety systems in the Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre are functioning correctly.”
But now Andrew Comben, chief executive, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, can confirm the go-ahead: “I am very pleased to share news that the opening date for Van Gogh Alive at Brighton Dome has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 20.
“The welfare of our visitors is always our top priority and this new date allows for the necessary certification of building systems in our Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre to have taken place.
“All impacted Van Gogh Alive ticket holders (those with tickets between May 12 and 19) have now been contacted via email and invited to select an alternative available date between May 20 and the end of the exhibition’s run, now extended to September 3. We want to sincerely apologise again to all affected customers and thank them for their understanding.
“The delay has been hugely disappointing for everyone involved in the restoration of this historic 220-year-old building. When we went on sale with Van Gogh Alive in January 2023 we were anticipating the completion of all redevelopment works by the end of March so we were confident we could deliver a May opening. The installation of new building wide systems is a vital part of the redevelopment and although these systems were in place, additional testing and verification were required.
“All other requirements for opening have been satisfied. Our venues, and Van Gogh Alive, will be ready to welcome visitors from May 20 and we extend our thanks to the project team, contractors and consultants who have worked to resolve these issues as soon as possible.
“Any ticket holders experiencing difficulty in rebooking their tickets are invited to email us at [email protected] for further assistance.’
After wowing thousands of visitors in Birmingham, London, Salford, Edinburgh and then Bradford, the exhibition comes to Brighton for its sixth UK venue – the latest in a list of nearly 90 cities around the world for an exhibition which has attracted 9 million visitors.
In Brighton, it will be the opening event at Brighton Dome’s refurbished Grade I and II listed Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre – a unique multi-sensory experience exploring the life and work of the seminal Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. More than 3,000 images will be spectacularly presented in detail, including iconic works such as Sunflowers and lesser-known paintings in an event combining the highest tech and the greatest art.
For Greg Talbot, head of events for Active Sport and Entertainment Ltd, it’s an event which has completely transformed his company: “We were traditionally an agency that delivered closed road running and cycling events and we went through a management buy-out in 2019 six months pre-Covid. Then the industry came to a complete standstill. Our business model was ripped away from us in March 2020. We had just announced that we were the delivery partner for British Cycling. It was a big win for us and then suddenly we were facing real difficulties and just not knowing whether we would stay alive in the post-pandemic world. But one of our senior people reignited an old conversation we had had maybe 12 or 13 years ago when the idea was to bring the world premiere of Van Gogh Alive to Edinburgh but for one reason or another that didn't happen. Van Gogh Alive then became this incredible global phenomenon attracting all these millions of people, but for some reason Grande Experiences, the company behind it, had never cracked the UK market. I don't know how hard they had tried but for one reason or another it had never happened until we reignited that ten-year-old conversation. We send maybe it's funny time to think about it but let's think about it.”
And so it happened. Inevitably the biggest challenge was finding venues big enough to take the exhibition (a six-metre high ceiling is required) but also places that would be economically viable: “But actually Covid created a bit of an opportunity because a lot of venues were empty.”
Greg and the team brought Van Gogh Alive to Birmingham for its UK premiere in August 2020. In the first month it attracted 30,000 visitors but then had to close when Birmingham moved into a higher tier: “We were closed for six months and then we were able to open again. We got another 30,000 visitors in in a month. It was a bit disjointed but what it did do for us was to prove that the concept really worked over here.”
And so the other venues in the UK followed, with now Brighton the latest: “We have been talking with the guys at Brighton Dome since November 2020 and we're really looking forward to it. We were very, very keen to come to Brighton and we know that there will be lot of interest in the city.”
As for the company, it is now longer doing either running or cycling: “We have absolutely doubled down on digital art.”