The Van Gogh Museum is partnering with Fujifilm Belgium and distributor Tribute International to bring out museum-certified reproductions of five famous Van Gogh masterpieces.
NEW YORK — Even if you have $100 million or so to spend on a famous painting, certain original masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh will never go on sale. But for $35,000 you can purchase a three-dimensional reproduction of some of these works — one so authentic that Willem van Gogh, the artist's great, great grand-nephew and an adviser to the Amsterdam-based Van Gogh Museum, admits that even he could not tell the difference.
The Van Gogh Museum is partnering with Fujifilm Belgium and distributor Tribute International to bring out museum-certified reproductions of five famous Van Gogh masterpieces: "Almond Blossoms" (1890), "Boulevard de Clichy" (1887), "The Harvest" (1888), "Sunflowers" (1889) and "Wheatfield under Thunderclouds" (1890). The reproductions will be on display in the U.S. for the first time, January 15-19 at the LA Art Show in Los Angeles, and are now available to U.S. buyers. "The selection is very iconic," says Willem van Gogh, 60.
They were produced using technology from Fujifilm Belgium known as Reliefography, an advanced form of inkjet printing that the company spent 7 years developing and fine-tuning.
The process combines a precise three-dimensional edition of the painting's actual surface texture with a high-resolution two-dimensional print. "Our technology can reproduce the exact brush strokes of the original," says Richard Tackx, who heads up Fujifilm Belgium's Van Gogh efforts.
It works particularly well with the thick, "impasto"-style strokes used by Van Gogh, he says. At no point is the original painting physically touched, avoiding potential risk.
"I have no worries that the scanning or examining the paintings will do any damage to the original one," says Willem van Gogh.
Each piece is produced as a limited edition of 260, which includes imaging of both the front and back as well as a museum quality frame. The Van Gogh Museum plans to hold onto 50 pieces from each edition for educational purposes and to give visually impaired people a chance to appreciate the art. They will be able to touch the surface of the reproduction, something not possible with an original that's protected behind glass. The reproductions carry a 100-year warranty.
Starting price for each piece is $35,000 meaning you can hang an "original" Van Gogh, or more accurately something pretty darn close, in your living room.
Tackx claims color reproductions that are 95% accurate, a level at which you'd have to be a museum curator to notice. Van Gogh Museum curators are involved during the process to examine the textures, colors and brightness.
Les Mayers, the executive director for U.S. operations at Tribute International and the guy in charge of marketing the project in America,adds that "not only can you see each brush stroke, you can see every crack, every chip in the paint, every flaw in the canvas." The collection has already been seen in Hong Kong, Beijing and Amsterdam.
Tackx says that capturing the 3D data of a painting and getting curator approval can easily take up to 3 months. "Achieving a very precise color match between the original and the reproduction is one of the most delicate points," he says.
The Museum wants to monitor sales before determining whether to make additional works available, Willem van Gogh explains. For its part, Fujifilm has no immediate plans to apply the process to other artists' works though Tackx says the technology is well suited for other Impressionist paintings.
Meanwhile, through a joint partnership between Océ (a Dutch printing company owned by Canon) and TU Delft (a technical university in the Netherlands), two Rembrandt masterpieces (a self-portrait, and "The Jewish Bride"), along with Van Gogh's "Flowers In A Blue Vase," were exhibited in 3D at a symposium at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Fujifilm's technology would appear to be a forger's dream. But each "Relievo" as Fujiflim calls the works, includes anti-counterfeit protections and a certificate.
It remains to be seen how the artistic community accepts the reproductions but Mayers expects opinions to run the gamut. "People that own galleries that sell very expensive art are going to be up in arms and very concerned… At the same time artists are going to be excited to learn more."
Willem van Gogh thinks Vincent van Gogh would be pleased. "Vincent wanted to share his art with everybody. It was one of his main objectives in his career."
Go to www.vangoghmuseumedition.com for more information.