Day 4 in Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum

I realized that because I didn’t quite consult my notes as well as dropping the ball with blogging, I neglected to mention that I stopped by the wonderful Van Gogh museum on my third full day (Jan. 3rd) in Amsterdam. Situated next to the Rijksmuseum and the Stendelijk (the Museum of Modern Art; I did not make it to there), it was a strikingly modern museum with a fascinating design (transparent roof). As luck would have it, I was in Amsterdam during the period the VGM had an exhibition about the namesake and Edvard Munch, the Norwegian painter.

First of all, I have to set the scene here. Prior to arriving, one had the option of buying tickets online versus waiting in line. Both my friend and I opted to take our chances with going in person, and that was a mistake-we waited for over an hour in the chilly weather to purchase tickets.The caveat was that the employees were admitting chunks of people in order to prevent a massive bum rush to the ticket counter. At the time it was a bit frustrating, but at least the reasoning wasn’t bad. I will admit to giving a palpable sigh of relief once we stepped foot into the (warm) museum.

When compared to the sheer size of the Rijksmuseum, having a smaller, much more concentrated collection was much easier for me to handle. Don’t get me wrong, I love art, but I reach points where I’m overwhelmed with too much of it, and my appreciation starts to diminish. Indeed, I (and a few other hostel friends) preferred this to the former for that very same reason. At the beginning of the exhibition, I was treated to the two painters’ famous works (sans Starry Night, which disappointed me to no end) and a brief video comparing their respective lives. By doing so, the museum enhanced every single visitor’s experience because we understood their backgrounds. I also came away with more respect for their tortured genius, and that was to feature prominently during the rest of the afternoon. The gallery, at least in this point, featured plenty of their artwork interspersed on the walls-the contrast between their two styles was a nice touch. Moving upstairs, the second section focused more on the namesake. From time to time, there were letters written to/from van Gogh between paintings, with the intention to add more knowledge. They weren’t excessive, so as previously mentioned, were nice to read.  Finally, the third and final floor featured their top works, with the theme of being the most emotional ones. Respectively, there were about five or six for each, but it was dead quiet among fellow visitors-everybody was experiencing the range of emotions. In the end, I’m sure that is what Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch wanted: people to realize the brilliance and emotions of the works they poured their heart and soul into.

One of the neatest aspects of the museum was found on the upper floors. The curators asked several artists from around the world to write letters “in response” to van Gogh in addition to featuring their own works based on their own interpretations of his style. Given that all of these letters were from contemporary artists, I thought it was highly interesting to see their personal views about his work/art in general.  As with his own letters, these works didn’t detract from the gallery, but instead added supplementary insight and beauty. I may be no art historian, but dwelling upon what his theoretical responses to those letters was fun imagining.

As I mentioned in the second paragraph, I liked this better than the Rijksmuseum, although they both are two world class museums. My final impression about this was that it was well run and well thought out. In essence, it’s what the ideal museum looks like. If you want more information about it, the museum’s website is and it is located at Museumplein 6, Amsterdam.

Tickets for adults cost 17 euros and tickets for people under 18 is free.



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