Portrait of a family history
The core collection of the Van Gogh Museum consists of paintings, drawings, letters and prints created by Vincent van Gogh. The museum also manages a collection of art brought together by Vincent and his brother Theo. Thanks to the brothers’ family, the collection has remained intact, but the story could have turned out very differently. After the death of Theo, just six months after Vincent passed, his widow Jo van Gogh-Bonger had an important decision to make: what should she do with the legacy of the Van Gogh brothers?
The exhibition Choose Vincent marks fifty years since the start of the Van Gogh Museum and tells the story behind its foundation. In the exhibition, the visitor follows a timeline past the main individuals from the family, and sees the choices they had to make, which turned out to be crucial for the collection and the museum.
In the exhibition, the visitor follows a ‘decision tree’, a timeline that goes over the floors as well as along the walls. This clearly shows when the most important decisions were made by individual members of the family, and we also see how each one could have turned out differently.
Projected animations give visitors the feeling they are the main protagonists in the space. This is a mix of film and animation, in which 3D and 3D blend into each other seamlessly, reinforcing the sense of closeness and vibrancy, while animation provides timing and abstraction.
Through special viewing points, we allow views to look forward or back to what is coming or what has happened, which reveals the links between the family members more clearly.
In some places we have visitors linger in a particular position to ponder the choices made by the main characters in the story. Once the visitor makes their selection, they can hear what choice the main character made.
In the exhibition, visitors are given the opportunity to walk in the shoes of the main characters and become actively involved with the collection. In this way, a visitor is challenged to present a painting, for example: they can choose from various frames, the wall colour and the lighting.
We finish up with the painting that started off the exhibition. Surrounded by swirling feathers, we hear the story of Willem van Gogh, who shares an early memory of a pillow fight under the almond blossoms.