Vincent Van Gogh Curated
CURATED BY :
Who are you favourite contemporary artists?
I am not an artist myself, but I do have my favourites like Jeff Koons; he is definitely one of my favourite contemporary artists, so is Tracey Emin, Marlena Dumas the Dutch artist – she had a very interesting retrospective and her work will be sent to the Tate Modern and, of course, Marina Abramović, the performance artist.
To what extent has Vincent influenced your life?
Nowadays he does very much. Of course he always has done, because I grew up with the same name, and many people asked me, "Hey, are you a family member of Vincent Van Gogh?" When I grew-up I intuitively thought, 'I'm not going to be a Van Gogh expert, I have to find my own way in life'. Although I always appreciated and loved to see his art, his contemporaries' and modern art, I found my own way. I was manager of a theatre company and then a lawyer, but now I am back to the family. Fifteen years ago the museum asked me to become the director of the museum shop, so we set-up the online shop and the special exhibition store and I've been working as an ambassador [for the museum] for five years now. As the eldest grandson I had a very good relationship with my grandfather, who was Vincent's nephew. We had many holidays at his home and I remember very well the house decorated with Vincent's paintings and the Almond Blossom painting hanging in the living room. The painting then also hung in the bedroom of my father, so this painting is always very special and very familiar to me.
How do you think Vincent would feel about the exhibition and the interest his work still generates across the globe?
Also very proud, because Vincent wanted to make paintings for everybody, not for a special class in society; for his neighbour, for his family, for his friends, for everybody. He was a democratic artist and he would be very happy to see that people here [in Dubai] appreciate his work.
Willem, how does presenting your great granduncle's work in the Middle East make you feel?
Very proud, because in Vincent's days there were no well-known connections between this part of the world and western Europe; they thought western Europe and Paris in particular was the capital of the world, the capital of culture, so it's so nice to introduce his legacy to the region in this way.
Why do you think Van Gogh's paintings are still so relevant and popular today?
To the present day the aesthetic it is still very, very pleasing. It's very colourful, very energetic; it's relatively easy for us to understand because it doesn't display historical, mythical or political subjects, these are just everyday subjects; street-scenes, flowers, ordinary people – things we can relate to. We know a lot about Vincent van Gogh as a person. We know all about his life through his letters, which are extremely eloquent. He talks a lot about what it means to be an artist, how he suffered for his art, what he had seen, what inspired him – and all these things are laid-out in the letters, which have for a long time been a great source of inspiration for many artists. Van Gogh also fits our idea of the perfect nineteenth-century artist because he was someone who did not care about conventions; he was from the side-lines of society, he was a difficult character, had very few friends, and all of that feeds into the romantic idea of the artist.
Why did you choose Dubai for the regional launch?
We felt that Dubai was a really good place for it because of the innovative nature of the place. And this is really on the cutting-edge of what is possible. We launched it in 2013 in Hong Kong, and we have also shown the artworks in Los Angeles. We have not yet decided where they might go next; we will feel our way through the market.