The Art of being van Gogh at NGV – Four Seasons in One Day

Four Seasons in One Day – The Art of being Van Gogh at NGV.

As we know Melbourne can experience Four Seasons in One Day which has also been documented in a song by internationally known band Crowed House who were stationed in Melbourne when their song writer Neil Finn wrote the track “Four Seasons in One Day”…so how ironic that the Vincent Van Gogh exhibition that is now showing at the NGV is called – Van Gogh and the Seasons, as its latest blockbuster for Melbourne Winter Masterpieces – it’s now winter and in the past few days the city has well and truly experienced the 4 seasons!
This exhibition has set me up perfectly to write this blog about the NGV and Van Gogh…
Let’s begin with the NGV and why they started the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces, well, my slant on why this event started back in 2004 was that the Victorian State Government who is the major money spinner for the NGV, told the NGV they needed to bring more people into the gallery (as numbers were slipping) or they will lose funding…imaging being told that, but I do totally understand why the government told them. But what incredible insight to come up with the Winter Masterpieces and now the rest is history as it’s been a huge success story ever since and now the NGV is in the top 20 most visited galleries in the world.
Talking about history, let’s look back at passed Winter Masters – it’s an annual series of major exhibitions held of course over winter, as I said starting back in 2004 with “Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay, an exhibition of Dutch Masters in 2005 with Vermeer’s painting The Love Letter from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam exhibited among others, it was the first time a Vermeer painting had been exhibited in Australia. The art world was starting to take notice of what was happening at the NGV. Next came the exhibition – Picasso: Love and War 1035-1945, with over 300 drawings and painting curated by Anne Baldassari, director of the Museum Picasso, Paris. That exhibition was a real crowd pleasure!
Mostly coming from New York was the following year’s exhibition – “Guggenheim Collection 1940’s to Now” showing more than 85 works by 68 artist. This exhibition didn’t travel to any other city.
About this time I started to review theses exhibitions on JOY94.9 and I was lucky to attend media launches of the exhibitions which I have done every year since.
The 2008 the exhibition was titled “Art Deco 1910-1939” (a personal favourite era of mine). The exhibition was organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, this was also around the time when the NGV lifted the bare with the presentation of their exhibitions, stunning! The look was like stepping back in time.
Hello, next came my personal highlight of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces – “Salvador Dali” what a blockbuster of an exhibition, the man was a genius, his mind, the showman…did you know that he designed to Chupa Chups logo, which is still used today and he created an animated film for Disney, which was shown at the exhibition.
2010 was “European Masters, followed “Vienna Art and Design”, (I wrote about another Vienna event that came to Melbourne a few blogs ago – “Vienna Therapy/Nychos, street artist ). Then came “Napoleon: Revolution to Empire”. Attracting close to 350,000 visitors, next was “ Monet’s Garden: The Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris” { Because of this exhibition, I so want to see Monet’s garden one day).
The wonderful memories I am having writing this blog and how lucky we are here in Melbourne to have these exhibitions in our city…2014 the NGV showcased “Italian Masterpieces from Spain’s Royal Court, Museo del Prado”, highlighting the love of Italian art the Spanish had.
Rembrandt, Rubens, Velazquez, Van Dyck and others were part of “Masterpieces from the Hermitage – The Legacy of Catherine the Great” what an amazing woman! Then last we saw “Degas: A New Vision” loved it!
Here we are 2017 – “Van Gogh and the Seasons” I was at the media launch the day before the exhibition opened, this event is always quite popular with the media, but this launch was huge with about 1,000 people, does Vincent Van Gogh have this pulling power or is it the fact that the NGV’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces is a major arts event…I think it’s a little of both.
The pre view of the exhibition as always was in the Grand Hall, with its amazing stained glass ceiling, the room looked spectacular with two very large floral displays at either end of the seated arias, of course the displays featured wheat and pampas grass two of the plants Vincent painted a lot, morning tea is always served, including cupcakes with a Van Gogh painting on each cake, formal talks aside, we were invited into the exhibition.
The exhibition opens with a beautifully produced film installation taking the viewer on a journey of how Van Gogh would have viewed the countryside around him, narrated by David Stratton and featuring dialogue from Van Gogh’s letters read by actor David Wenham (worth the visit by itself) This is the largest Vincent Van Gogh exhibition to be held in Australia and its exclusive to Melbourne featuring 50 paintings, covering all four seasons, which Van Gogh loved the changing seasons, so do I…curated by Sjraar van Heugten, a renowned Van Gogh expert. At these media launches the curator and Tony Elwood (director of NGV) walk you through the exhibition stopping at curtain pictures to give you an insight on why/how or the moment in time that he painted the picture.
The NGV create the mood of the exhibition by the way they display the collection. In this case they have divided the exhibition into seasons and as you walk through, you know the season has changed with a very simple, but very effective black see-through screen and each painting is displayed on its own wall, to show off how impressive each painting is and for the viewer to contemplate Van Gogh’s life and experience through his observations of the seasonal changes and his wonderful use of colour – brilliant!
The exhibition concludes with a striking self-portrait of the man himself, it’s very special being in the same room as these painting. They even had two of Vincent’s descendants there, a perfect photo op. I conducted an interview on my Sunday Arts Magazine program on JOY94.9 with the wonderful Ted Gott Senior Curator, International Art at the NGV, who gave our listeners incredible insight into Van Gogh’s life.
As always you exit through the gift shop (my saying that it always reminds me of Banksa’s awesome film – “Exit Through The Gift Shop”), anyway you know how popular Van Gogh is, as there was so much cool stuff to buy…
The exhibition has already broken attendance records, with the opening weekend and is now the fastest selling exhibition, on track to be the biggest they have staged.
Thank you NGV for delivering another wonderful Melbourne Winter Masterpieces.

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