The van Gogh museum is currently under renovation, meaning that the normal home of this great collection will be closed between 29 September and 25 April.
While the collection from the van Gogh museum has been safely moved to the Hermitage and is, of course, well worth visiting, there is a special exhibition currently underway at the Beurs van Berlage. While it doesn’t contain any original paintings or sketches – everything on display is a reproduction – it is a treat. Indeed, it might be even better than the originals: van Gogh used lively colours in his paintings, but unfortunately age has faded some of these colours. Using modern technology, the artists behind this exhibition have managed to restore 200 masterpieces to their original hues.
The Beurs van Berlage is, in its own right, a gorgeous building. Completed in 1903, it housed Amsterdam’s stock market. Today, the stock market has moved across the street and the grand brick interiors of the old building are open to the public for concerts, exhibitions and conferences. The basement, however, was long left to fill with the random assortment of chairs, tables and posters that are the inevitable residue of conferences.
Today, it has all changed. The dinky old furniture and dated graphics have been removed and the whole basement has been spruced up to house this new, stunning exhibition.
The carefully curated paintings are displayed in their original sizes and digitally remastered to bring out the colours that a century of fading has dulled. Alongside these masterfully restored paintings are seven 3D animations. It was with a great sense of curiosity that I picked up the 3D glasses and made my way into the exhibition, only to be surprised and impressed by the care, skill and passion that has gone into the 3D animations.
The paintings are, quite simply, brought to life. See the wheat fields undulating in the wind as a murder of crows fly up and out of the frame. Witness van Gogh’s life in Arles as we move from the street, into his room, out to the fields and back. Experience the madness in the endless halls of the insane asylum in Saint-Rémy where Vincent was committed for a year shortly before his death. Your first instinct is that 3D is a gimmick, yet here they have managed to use it as a tool to enhance the experience. You will find yourself glued to the screen in disbelief – or at least I was.
In short, it is a brilliant exhibition, carefully guiding you through Vincent van Gogh’s life and work as he and it developed. A selection of quotes from Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo add a very human element to the work. The paintings are almost unrecognizable: the bright colours add a warmth that seems to have been missing for so long. The paintings are displayed in a simple and straightforward manner – they are not adorned by fancy frames – which only emphasizes the beauty of the artwork, just as Vincent intended.
David Brooks, curator of the exhibition and expert in all things van Gogh, spoke at the grand opening:
“Ultimately Vincent’s greatest desire was for everyone to appreciate his works. He would have wanted the paintings to be enjoyed in the glory of their original colours—as fresh and vibrant as if the paint on the canvas was still wet to the touch. In this exhibition Vincent’s dream is finally realized.”
After a visit to this exhibition, you will never look at van Gogh in the same way again.
The exhibition is on daily from 10am to 6pm, in the Beurs van Berlage in the centre of the city. It costs 16.50 euros and runs until 19 May, 2013.
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