“How to See Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in 5 Museums at Once? Facebook,” By John Hurdle

Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1888), from the Neue Pinakothek museum in Munich. The painting is one of five that will be seen together “virtually” on Monday. Neue Pinakothek, Munich

“How to See Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in 5 Museums at Once? Facebook”


PHILADELPHIA — Five versions of van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting will be showcased simultaneously on Facebook Live on Monday in a collaboration among art museums on three continents.

The paintings will be interpreted by curators from museums in London, Amsterdam, Munich, Philadelphia and Tokyo, who will deliver a sequence of live 15-minute commentaries while standing with the works in the museums.

Ahead of the curatorial events, the museums will also use their own Facebook pages, starting on Thursday, to simulate the experience of viewing all five paintings in a gallery, allowing the audience to compare and examine them as if they were in a three-dimensional environment.

Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1888), at the National Gallery in London. National Gallery, London

The virtual gallery will include narration by van Gogh’s great-grand-nephew, Willem van Gogh, who will share memories of the paintings, which were created in 1888-9 for a visit by the artist Paul Gauguin to van Gogh’s house in Arles, France.

The Facebook Live event is being led by the National Gallery in London, which in 2014 brought together its own version of “Sunflowers,” and that of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, for the first time in 65 years.

Jennifer Thompson, curator of the Facebook Live event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art — which houses the only version of “Sunflowers” in the United States — said she believed it was the first time that art museums in different countries had used social media to highlight works that are unlikely to be seen together in one physical space.

Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1888), at the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Museum of Art, Tokyo. Seiji Togo Memorial, Sompo Japan Museum of Art, Tokyo

“It’s a fun and engaging way to think about these five paintings that are scattered about the globe, that are unlikely to ever come together in one venue or one exhibition,” Ms. Thompson said. “This is a way for us to take advantage of technology to virtually bring the paintings together, and to have a conversation among curators.”

She said that the “Sunflower” paintings were among the public favorites at all the participating museums, and that the event was an opportunity to highlight van Gogh’s choice of color and texture and his love of nature.

Each curator will talk about a different aspect of the paintings, Ms. Thompson said. For example, she will focus on van Gogh’s repetition of subject, while her colleague from the Neue Pinakothek in Munich will talk about his use of color.

“Sunflowers” (1889), from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Ms. Thompson said she would distinguish the Philadelphia and Munich versions of the paintings — which both have turquoise backgrounds — from later versions in the other three museums, which have yellow backgrounds.

The Facebook Live event will begin with the London presentation, starting at 12:50 p.m. Eastern time, and conclude with that of the Tokyo curator (from the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art), starting at 2:10 p.m. Eastern time.

“Sunflowers” (1888 or 1889), from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia Museum of Art

A version of this article appears in print on August 11, 2017, on Page C2 of the New York edition with the headline: Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ Is Starring on Facebook. 

By John Hurdle, Reprint from The New York Times, 10 August 2017, © 2017 The New York Times Company

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