Wheat fields were a common subject of Vincent Van Gogh’s art, and it was in one of those fields that the iconic painter took his own life. At the Van Gogh 360 show, these paintings are nothing more than a background for couples to take cute #OOTD pictures for their Instagrams.
The Van Gogh 360 show is more of an Instagram spectacle than an exhibition for the genuine admirers of the late 19th century impressionist.
John Berger, in his book, “Ways of Seeing”, speaks about paintings and those who possess them. He postulates that often times oil paintings that were commissioned after the Renaissance came to be indicative of the status of their patrons. A man of culture and intellect was one who was above simply possessing things of great material wealth – the true wealthy saw value in beauty and the arts.
In our contemporary age, when paintings are seldom commissioned yet we are surrounded by images regardless of where we go, this same status is achieved by announcing to the world that you attended the latest cultural fest or show in town.
The Van Gogh 360 show proved me right – are you really a culturally-educated ‘aesthete’ if you didn’t book early bird tickets for the show? But then, does a tree actually fall if no one hears it – how is the world supposed to know that you partake in the arts as a man of culture? You need to post it on Instagram! Better yet, make a whole reel out of it to ensure you reach the widest possible audience.
The exhibit itself makes a mockery out of the artist whose work it seeks to immerse you in. Van Gogh’s painting of his Saint-Remy’s asylum’s corridor is one that makes you empathise with the artist – you wonder what dread would have filled his imagination when he had admitted himself to a mental institution. Here, that painting is juxtaposed with Van Gogh’s many paintings of flowers – the original meaning is lost entirely.
My experience of the show was a disheartening one – I expected to walk away moved from art that was shaped by a man’s years of terrible struggle. Sadly, my second grade art classes had a more profound impact.