15 December 2015
Vincent van Gogh's 125-year heritage more relevant than ever.
The Van Gogh Museum's anniversary year has ended with a record number of visitors. Worldwide, 1.9 million visitors came to the museum, a considerable number among them from the Netherlands. Since his death, 125 years ago, Van Gogh appears to be more relevant than ever. The museum drew a lot of attention with its public opening of the new glass entrance building and its well-received Munch : Van Gogh exhibition. “The interest in Van Gogh and our museum is overwhelming. Innumerable people from all over the world show in many different ways how Van Gogh is still an incredible source of inspiration. The cherry on the pie for me is that this results in a gradually increasing number of visitors. It is a wonderful finale of an eventful year”, according to director Axel Rüger.
Increasing number of visitors
Compared with 2014, the number of visitors has increased by more than 18 % from 1.6 to 1.9 million. This increase can be attributed to an exceptional combination of factors: enormous worldwide attention and huge publicity for Van Gogh and the Van Gogh Year; the new entrance building; the exhibition programme; the successful online campaign; and the growing number of tourists that visit Amsterdam. Thanks to the new entrance and, consequently, the highly improved visitor logistics, the audience have indicated that they do not experience the museum as crowded once they are inside.
Public opening with 125,000 sunflowers
In September, a labyrinth of sunflowers was created to celebrate the opening of the new glass entrance building. In two days' time, more than 40,000 people visited the labyrinth and the new entrance. On Sunday 6 September, the public was invited to come and pick the sunflowers. Within 1.5 hours the labyrinth was emptied; 125,000 sunflowers were handed out and the whole area was dressed in yellow. By means of the periscope social media tool, online fans could walk through the labyrinth and virtually touch the sunflowers.
During the opening ceremony on Friday 4 September, the directors of the Van Gogh Museum - in cooperation with the four directors of the cultural organizations established on Museumplein - launched the official opening of the new entrance. The finish of this project was also the completion of Museumplein. The renovation had lasted 18 months and was for the major part financed by the museum itself, with support by sponsors, supporters, funds, foundations and the public sector.
Axel Rüger: “We completed a complex building project by means of our own resources and within the time and budget given and we have now been 'living' here again for already four months. The building fits like a glove. It is as if it has always been here, which feels very comfortable.”
Parallels between the two great masters Munch : Van Gogh
In the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix and Queen Sonja of Norway, the Munch : Van Gogh exhibition was opened late September. This marked the reopening of the exhibition wing. For the first time in history, the exhibition combines, on a large scale, the works and lives of Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh, with more than 100 artworks and letters, including iconic masterpieces seldom made available on loan, such as The Scream, The Sick Child and Madonna by Munch and Starry Night over the Rhône, The Bridge of Trinquetaille and the Portrait of Patience Escalier by Van Gogh. The exhibition still continues until Sunday 17 January 2016.
Munch : Van Gogh was made possible thanks to the support of the Turing Foundation, the Blockbusterfonds, the Mondriaan Fonds and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands granted the museum an indemnity guarantee on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.
World-famous responses to Van Gogh's letters
With the When I Give, I Give Myself exhibition, organized by guest curator Henk Schut, the museum realized a modern concept in the context of the anniversary theme of ‘125 years of inspiration’. In this exhibition, contemporary artists and writers, among whom Jan Fabre and Anish Kapoor, responded to a specific fragment from one of Vincent van Gogh's letters: for instance by creating a painting, an installation, a poem, photo or video. Job Koelewijn even recorded all of Van Gogh's letters on tape for his work Reliëf. When I Give was made possible by the support of the Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds.
Worldwide virtual fan base
The number of visitors online has also increased. With an increase of 25%, the Van Gogh Museum website will have been visited by more than 2.5 million visitors this year. The website was awarded the Golden European Design Award and was granted silver for Best website during the presentation of the International Design and Communication Awards. The social network of the Van Gogh Museum has also increased considerably in 2015. The fan base on Facebook has increased from 500,000 to 800,000 likes, on Twitter from 100,000 to 145,000 and 5.2 million Van Gogh fans follow the museum via Google+. Furthermore, the number of followers on Instagram has also increased from 5,000 to 33,000.
Generous sponsor network
With respect to the new entrance, the museum attracted a number of new, long-term partners, among whom Van Lanschot Bankiers, Heineken, Takii, Select Catering, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance and Dümmen Orange, in addition to its present network of supporters and sponsors - who contribute, among other things, to the exploitation of the Van Gogh Museum.
The museum itself financed the ambitious building project to a large extent. The total sum of € 20 million was the result of the museum's own financial means and the support of the BankGiro Loterij, the Vincent van Gogh Stichting, Van Lanschot Bankiers, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, Tokyo Shimbun, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Municipality of Amsterdam / Borough of Amsterdam Zuid, Yanmar Europe, the Triton Collection Foundation, the John and Marine Fentener van Vlissingen Fonds, Heineken, Takii, the Drs. C. van Zadelhoff Fonds, Ernst A. Nijkerk, Dümmen Orange, as well as various other companies, funds, foundations and private sponsors.
125 years after his death, more relevant than ever
In 2015, the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh's death was celebrated with exhibitions and various colourful activities and events at different locations, which resulted in a plethora of attention. Just a few of the many activities:
- Mons opened the Van Gogh Year with an exhibition about Van Gogh’s period in the Borinage.
- In March, the film Vincent van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing, about Van Gogh's life and the new presentation of the Van Gogh Museum was shown in cinemas worldwide.
- In April, the magazine Vincent was published, a one-time glossy about Van Gogh's heritage.
- AVROTROS declared April as the Van Gogh theme of the month and invited (amateur) artists to submit works inspired by Van Gogh. The works of Rutger van der Tas and Fatima Bouankoud were selected as winners from among the more than 3,700 submissions. These works were shown in the museum during one month.
- In May, the Donald Duck weekly (nr 22-2015) was completely dedicated to Vincent van Gogh. The issue was launched in the museum and the self-portrait of 'Duck' Van Gogh was temporarily included in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum. Sanoma received the Mercur Marketing Activity of the Year award for their collaboration.
- Under the heading of Van Gogh Europe, various activities and events were organized in the Netherlands, Belgium, England and France (the countries where Van Gogh spent time), Van Gogh's heritage being the guiding principle.
- NBTC, Kröller-Müller Museum, Van Gogh Brabant, RBT Kan and the Van Gogh Museum collaborated as Van Gogh 2015 and together they conducted a collective promotional campaign;
- On 19 July, the Van Gogh Museum itself celebrated the death of Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, the village where Van Gogh died, 125 years ago. In honour of this occasion, the museum published the The Vincent Van Gogh Atlas, in cooperation with Rubenstein Publishers.