To see a comprehensive collection of the work of one of the most influential artists in history, you could rack up frequent flyer miles by visiting New York, Chicago, Boston, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, France, Scotland and Amsterdam to name only a few. Or, you could stay right here in Denver where a collection of 70 hand-picked works of Vincent Van Gogh are now on display until January 20, 2013.
“Becoming Van Gogh” is a unique show, assembled from museums and private collections all over the world. The Denver Art Museum is the only venue in the world for this exhibition. It is not travelling anywhere, and this particular collection of artworks will probably never be shown together again.
Fresh off the success of the “Yves Saint Laurent” exhibit, in which 40% of visitors were from out of town and out of the country, the Denver Art Museum is thrilled to open “Becoming Van Gogh.” Are they excited because of the revenue the exhibit will bring? Yes, sure, but Director Christoph Heinrich says “it’s more of an experiment and something to give to the community.”
The exhibit is called “Becoming Van Gogh” because it is about the journey Van Gogh took to become the artist he was when he died, far too young at age 37. His health (mental and physical) and tragic death are mentioned minimally in exhibition labels and in the audio tour, only there to set a tone and not to define him.
Instead, the exhibit follows Van Gogh from his very early days as an artist in the Netherlands after having tried four other careers as an
evangelical preacher, a teacher, theology student and art clerk, to his time in France. Along the way, he moves from the dark, heavy-handed work inspired by the Old Masters, to a fascination with Japanese art that encouraged a different style, to the hesitant discovery of color and styles of other artists that really awakened him. Imagine Van Gogh coming from a time when color in art was seen as frivolous and then allowing himself to open up to its possibilities. We take things like that for granted now!
“Becoming Van Gogh” has been virtually the raison d’etre of curator Timothy Standring for the past seven years, in partnership with Louis van Tilborgh, senior researcher of paintings at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Obtaining the loans of the paintings became a huge part of Standring’s life even consuming part of his drive through the open stretches of Wyoming while taking daughter to college.
On a preview tour, Standring led his obedient tour group from one work to another, exclaiming repeatedly: “Isn’t this fantastic?!” He finally caught himself, saying “oh, it’s all fantastic, isn’t it? It’s really just so exciting!” His passion and enthusiasm were contagious and touching. Even without a personal tour, there is an excitement and energy felt from merely seeing the works of art but also from the way the exhibit is set up. The visitor’s journey through the exhibit parallels Van Gogh’s artistic journey.
In the very first room, without a single actual painting in site, Van Gogh’s own words and select paintings appear and disappear, projected on a slanted wall. You see his early hesitations, determination to really make a go of this painting thing and then the joy that comes from unleashing his talents. You know right then and there that this man went through a real transformation and you are eager to follow his path. You are to think of the exhibit as a book with a forward – this opening room, and seven chapters. Each chapter shows Van Gogh simultaneously working diligently and purposefully at being an artist but also emotionally moved and inspired by the scenery, artists, artwork and vibe he discovered in France. The Denver Art Museum worked magic with the lighting to bring out the burgeoning illumination of Van Gogh’s artwork as he discovers gorgeous reds, pinks, blues, greens and yellows.
You won’t catch a glimpse of Van Gogh’s face via his self-portraits until the end of the exhibit. Whereas most exhibits introduce you to the artist at the start, Standring deliberately put the portraits at the end to enable the visitor to look at Van Gogh first as an artist and technician without having the person’s image in the back of your mind following you around. Standing face to face with Van Gogh at the end of the exhibit is intended to let you have your own, private moment with him, having travelled his path.
The Denver Art Museum isn’t the only place a-buzz with excitement over the “Becoming Van Gogh” exhibit. The whole city is sharing the love with visitors. Nine hotels have special “Becoming Van Gogh” packages with lodging deals, “skip the line” museum ticket packages and Van Gogh-inspired treats and amenities. A special website has been set up specifically for all the deals, www.VanGoghDenver.com . Since the exhibit runs through the holiday season, also check www.MileHighHolidays.com for additional activities and deals that incorporate the exhibit with holiday happenings throughout this city of ours which is very serious about its festivities. Make a whole staycation out of it and save yourself a bundle, seeing as how you’re saving all that globetrotting around.
View additional photos here:
Untitled #52 (Written Off)
Included in general admission
Friday, October 26, 2012 – 6:00pm – 10:00pm
Throughout the museum complex
To celebrate the opening of Becoming Van Gogh, Untitled #52 (Written Off) examines artists forgotten in their own time, while offering odes to the museum’s own artworks that deserve a second look. Don’t miss the latest installment of Buntport Theater’s Joan and Charlie Discuss Tonight’s Theme. Be prepared for a dose of the unexpected!
General admission to the museum is two-for-one with valid student ID during the event.
This is the final Untitled event of the year; watch for the return of Untitled in 2013.