‘Van Gogh in America’ opens Sunday at the Detroit Institute of Arts | Art Stories and Interviews | Detroit
A century ago, the Detroit Institute of Arts had a head start when it became the first American museum to purchase a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. It was his 1887 “Self-Portrait,” a 13.75-inch by 10.5-inch oil painting made several years before the painter died by suicide.
The museum paid $4,200 for the painting at auction, or about $75,000 in today’s dollars. It was a good investment – when the cash-strapped town considered selling it in 2014, Christie’s now valued it at $80-150 million.
Fortunately, the city did not resort to the sale. And that fateful purchase a century ago helped set the stage for Van Gogh in Americaa retrospective of the iconic artist’s career which opens to the public on Sunday.
“Not everyone can go to Paris. Not everyone can go to Amsterdam,” DIA Director Salvador Salort-Pons said during the keynote speech at a media event on Thursday, adding: “We have a phenomenal assemblage of Van Gogh paintings. . And also, we have ‘Starry Night’ from Paris.
“Starry Night,” on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, was an 11-hour addition to the current years exhibit, which was postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. It was also eclipsed last year by two dueling ‘immersive’ digital exhibitions drawing on the work of Van Gogh. The DIA exhibition, however, is the largest Van Gogh exhibition in years and includes more than 70 works on loan from around 60 museums and collections around the world.
At first, the art world didn’t seem to know what to think of Van Gogh. He is said to have sold very few paintings in his lifetime, but was eventually adopted after his death, after museums like the DIA helped boost his profile. And there was something about his paintings that seemed to really resonate with Americans, especially the heartland. The next American museums to buy Van Gogh were also in the Midwest, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art.
“Van Gogh in America tells how Americans shaped in their hearts and minds the image of Van Gogh,” Salort-Pons said.
If you go – and you should – take your time. No photography or digital reproduction can do justice to Van Gogh’s radiant brushstrokes, so it’s best to experience them in person.
Van Gogh in America runs Oct. 2, 2022 through Jan. born Feb. 22, 2023 at the Detroit Institute of Arts; 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit; 313-833-7900; dia.org. Tickets cost between $7 and $29 and are free for DIA members.
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