Will You Visit the Van Gogh Alive Malaysia? Here's My Honest Review

A Walkthrough on Van Gogh Alive Malaysia.

Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite artist (the other is Frida Kahlo).

Cozy up because this is going to be a long one. But I promise you, you will want to continue reading.

I was exposed to Van Gogh, his biography and paintings when I was only 9 years old. Back then, they used to have one of those collect-them-all 2 ring binders- some topics were on Home DIY crafts, some were about science and technology; there was even one about tarot cards. But the one that my mother collected happened to be the one about famous artists and it was about  Vincent Van Gogh.

How incredibly informative it was! I remember, being awed and curious at the same time while flipping through the binder, reading about Van Gogh's journey. But because I was too young to understand most of its contents, I had a lot of Why's. 

Why did Van Gogh cut off his ear? 

Why did he painted the starry night? 
Why is the sunflower so popular and why did he used the colour yellow often? 

Why is his bedroom such an iconic subject matter? 
Why did he painted self-portraits of himself, and why did he painted the locals he knew? 

What was his relationship with Paul Gauguin like?
Why is there an association between Van Gogh and Absinthe, "the green fairy drink"?

Here's a fun fact: 
Van Gogh was also very much ahead of his time. He wanted to create a collaborative community among the artists, to live and work together. Unfortunately, they didn't see it the way he did. 

Van Gogh became such a big contribution to my creative exploration as a child up until I was a college student when I chose to speak about the Life & Times of Van Gogh for my Public Speaking exam and aced it! 

Malaysia's Van Gogh Alive

I attended the Van Gogh Alive Malaysia tour in Bukit Jalil Pavilion with my group of friends. It is no ordinary exhibition that's for sure. 

The Van Gogh Alive tour is said to be the world's most visited immersive, multi-sensory experience. It was exhibited in various countries, and continued its tour in Malaysia. 

That being said, you can imagine my excitement when I heard the Van Gogh Alive was in town. 

We instantly purchased the early bird tickets which were priced around RM49 per pax- the original was RM75 for adults. A little steep I would say, and naturally we had high expectations for the exhibition since it was priced high.

Van Gogh alive was marketed as being well received by a total of 8.5 million visitors across 80 cities worldwide. It was also the first multisensory and digital art exhibition experience in Malaysia. 

Once again, it intrigued us and we were eager to visit the exhibition that pays homage to the iconic late artist.

In the past I have had the opportunity to visit the Leonardo Da Vinci: Omni Opera exhibition at the National Visual Arts Gallery Malaysia- and I must say, I was incredibly impressed! The exhibition covered the genius master & polymath's narrative and thought process through his journals, sketches and it was filled with paintings. Not a multisensory experience, however, it was a fulfilling exhibition. (Did I mention, it was also free?) 

And so, I went to Van Gogh Alive, having high hopes of it- and perhaps I shouldn't have and perhaps I should have detached from my expectations of having experienced the Omni Opera exhibition. Nonetheless, because it said multisensory, once again, I expected more from it. 

What to Expect

Upon entering, tickets will be checked and you will be given a strap around your wrist. A very short briefing will be given as well as you will be instructed on the do's and don'ts.

Strictly no food and drinks are allowed, including no tripods, no selfie sticks and no flash photography. 

You will also be given a complimentary ticket to the next digital exhibition next door called 'The Great Artist'.

The exhibition is divided by 4 sections (or 4 rooms) to be accessed by going through the curtains. 

First Section

You will be greeted by a small, mirror-covered room from wall to ceiling, and 2 rows of faux sunflowers. Lots and lots of sunflowers, I suppose an homage to Van Gogh's famous Sunflower painting. 

Naturally, you will be awed by it and start taking photos. This room intrigued us and we were eager to find out what's next.

Second Section

Upon entering this room, it looks like a typical art exhibition room except that for most of it are basically brief descriptions about Van Gogh in 3 languages on the walls. 

There are two specific areas in this section which are popular among visitors:-

1) A drawing area equipped with rows of easels where visitors can take a piece of paper and pencil provided and refer to the step-by-step drawing on screen (you will be drawing Van Gogh's room). 

2) The other, a replica of Van Gogh's iconic painting of his room with props. Visitors are allowed to stand or sit and pose in this room with a bed and chairs. 

Third Section

A short hallway of fairy lights.

Here you will find the hallway, with mirrors left and right and strings of fairy lights. The ceiling and floor are basically covered in what looks like a very close-up printed wall paper of the painted swirls from the starry night stuck on the ceiling and floor. 

We hung out very briefly here, mostly just to take pictures. Still wanting to know more, we proceed to the next one hoping the next one will amaze us.

Fourth Section

This room is the one with what they called an immersive experience.

We were told it was a 40 minute experience and we were encouraged to take our time in this section. 

As you enter a dark room, you will find yourself in the midst of the light, sound and visual projection on several screens. You will find people walking about, or posing with the screen taking pictures, and some sitting on the floor watching the show. 

The visual projection is coupled with a playlist of classical music to go with it. Some familiar tunes from the era were easily recognized like Erik Satie (and perhaps, I thought I heard Claude Debussy). However my biggest question was, why didn't they include the iconic song "Starry, Starry Night" by Don McLean? The song describes the pain and struggles of the troubled artist. 

The show featured Van Gogh's paintings turned into a creative digital art show that is semi-animated so to speak. 2 or 3 of the screens showed his famous quotes. Some of the images moved, some didn't.

The room can be pretty cold, so do bring a sweater unless you enjoy the cold in our hot and humid climate. One of my friends expressed that there should've been benches for people to sit and enjoy the show. I think it would definitely benefit the elderly folks and pregnant ladies who are visiting as well- not everyone can sit on the floor, stand or walk around.

Still kind of mesmerized by the entire show in the early parts of it, however, after hanging around for about an hour or so, it ended with us saying "Is that all?"

Is That All?

Yes, kind of. This is where you will be surrounded with pricey memorabilia, so heads up if you are planning to purchase some for yourself. 

Merchandise such as umbrellas priced at RM180 that opens up to a starry, starry night scene underneath; there were also tote bags and printed copies of Van Gogh's paintings which I personally was not willing to spend on.

There are smaller, affordable merchandise that you can own from this section like magnets and postcards. We bought the postcards at RM10 each. With Starry, Starry Night postcards looking like the one being bought the most, I gathered that the postcards are the most popular buys.

The Greatest Artist

Finally, as ticket holders, you will also be given a complimentary entry to the exhibition next door called The Greatest Artist, which is basically the continuation of the digital experience.

When you are about to enter, a talking portrait of Vincent Van Gogh will greet you with a brief introduction. I shall keep it brief and simple this part on what were some of the features that are worth looking at:

1. Light of Hope: A room with lighted up animated sunflowers when you hold a lantern made of wicker against the wall.

2. An AI generated self-portrait: You get to take a picture of yourself, have it "painted" digitally in a colourful, abstract and impasto style (you can choose to get it printed and purchased upon exit. Price: RM28 per copy)

3. A trippy and colourful floral projection on umbrellas

The rest, well, you will find yourself walking it through and quickly getting out at the exit where you will be browsing through more merchandise. 

At the merchandise section, there were artisanal items for sale by some of our local makers and brands, such as Midori Studio by Mikapi, Designs by 7s, Julia Soap Garden, Purple Ling and August.Handcraft which I was personally impressed by because they have included our art & handmade scene for exposure. 

Finally, this is also where you will be asked if you would like to purchase a copy of your AI generated self-portrait. 

Yes I caved and paid RM28 for a copy of my own portrait.


Is it Worth Going? 

You and I may have different views and opinions about the experience. But I shall leave it to you to decide for yourself after reading this review. 

As a fan of Van Gogh's life work,  I would say, this exhibition can be better. There's so much more to improve and include:-

- It could've been more comprehensive.
- It could've been more interactive and immersive.

If you are going to do a multisensory experience, go big all the way.

My final, most important question: 

What about the educational information on the life and times of Van Gogh? Van Gogh's entire journey as an artist was about his narrative and struggles in the 1800s. 

It could've included a much more variety of his paintings, copies of his letters to Theo, his brother who played a very important role in his life,  and more about his mental health diagnosis and his experience in the asylum. 

Van Gogh isn't just known as the guy who painted the starry, starry night and the guy who cut off his ear and then shot himself. 

But then again, this is just my personal view.

So, will you pay RM75 just to take an aesthetically pleasing stroll for insta-worthy pictures? Or do you actually want to learn something educational about the artist?

Let me know in your comments below.

Thinking of going? You can still catch it:
Van Gogh Alive Malaysia
  • 17 Dec 2022 - 16 March 2023
  • Pavilion Bukit Jalil
  • Tickets: RM75 (Adults) / RM68 (Children and Senior Citizens)
  • Can be purchase on site or online at www.vangogh.com.my

*This review includes opinions and feedbacks from my group of friends, thank you for completing this review. 

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  1. Hi, i just went there yesterday, although i bought the early bird ticket, i think it's not worth it... I've been browsing through the exhibition held at another countries. They were all so spacious. (Sensory area) And the screens were all over the place. So my expectations were quite high. But here in Malaysia. More black background and black flooring...not covering enough with illustration. It was disappointing. And the Fairy Lights hallway...more like entrance at wedding halls. I wished the space is bigger and covered the whole space with illustration. I agree with u, "is that all? " was my thoughts too.

  2. Like many things in Malaysia, it id not worth it. Waste of money for fake flowers, a few screens, music and ig photos. Thank you for the review, you saved me some money.


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