Before reading this article you should know:
- I don’t blog about events
- I am an art-heathen
So, recently I visited the Van Gogh Alive event at the deconsecrated San Lorenzo Church just shy of Ponte Vecchio, slap bang in the middle of Florence tourist town (who knew that venue was there? Not me!). And I was moved to break a couple of rules (blogging about stuff I neither blog about or really understand).
It was “unbelievable”.
Unbelievable Version 1
In Florence I have got used to “shoddy” art. Not the art itself (you might have heard; it’s mostly pretty good!) but the way that it is presented to the public. We (the public) are mostly not art experts. We know various pieces of classical music for the ads with which they are associated, we know famous art because it’s really, really famous (not because we know who created it, when they created it or why they created it). We need to be helped to be involved. We need someone to make art accessible to us. We are the “instant” generations – we need that info fast. Florence is generally very, very good at not helping that process. At all.
So I decided to go to the event (based on nothing, I had read no reviews, seen no critics’ reviews etc.) with a four year old. We arrived at 1.30 pm. The evidently drunken Rom at the entrance was disconcerting, but par for the course (this is Florence and apparently we can do nothing about that …). The entrance was enchanting, and expectations were being built.
There was no queue, and we paid (me 12 euro, and the 4 year old nothing! #fabulous) and entered the first area. I have to admit, that on the train ride in, I looked up Van Gogh for at least the barest details that might enthral a four year old, but I needn’t have bothered. It was all there. Max 20 panels, in good Italian and good English in very accessible language, plus great visuals. A perfect way to quickly have the life and the works of Van Gogh in your mind’s eye before entering the true exhibition. Who knew he died at 37? Who knew he lived at Isleworth in the UK?
The entrance to the main exhibition is via a rising staircase. The music swelled to an amazing (unbearable?) crescendo, and you emerge into the most incredible space. I won’t even begin to describe it – except to say it’s perfect, it totally works, it’s very much an amazing experience. Even with a four year old. We were there for an hour and a half.
The lit-up floor area is a godsend for parents (not sure if that how it was planned, but it so works) and kids from 3 -10 danced, rolled, lay still, crouched and leapt in the air as the lights and the music changed. That was very educational to watch.
Unbelievable Version 2
The site was originally only published in Italian – here in Florence “tourist-town”. I don’t know if I made a difference, but rather than pointing out to the organisers this “oversight” I directly contacted a fabulously good translator and got her to bug them directly. There is one page in English now. Maybe I did good.
There are no social media associated with the event. Admittedly it’s a short-lived affair here in Florence, but ownership and propagation of a dedicated hashtag just via a twitter account could have been awesome. And potential on Instagram could have pretty mindblowing!
But a true accolade for this event is the fact that both my 4 four old AND my 19 year old loved it. And so did their mother. That covers a fair few generations!