Becoming Van Gogh: The Art of Presenting Art

Nov 14, 2012

Just how long does it take to put together a major exhibit featuring the art of Vincent Van Gogh? For Dr. Timothy Standring and the Becoming Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, the answer is seven years.

The following is a transcript:

Timothy Standring: People think that normally these exhibitions come in like a 3 ring circus – and they don’t – so instead of getting the van Gogh exhibition, we created it.

Host: that creation includes 90 works from 60 private and public collections around the world.

Wendy Wham: There’s no question that the Becoming Van Gogh exhibit is a crowd favorite. Georgette and her husband came from Deadwood, South Dakota.

Husband:We had Friends that told us about it... 
Georgette: We were really up on it and just wanted to be here.
Gail Larson: Hi, I'm here from Santa Cruz county in California.
Timothy Standring: We'll let you come… (laughter)

Wham: That laugh comes from Timothy Strandring. It’s infectious – and it comes a bit easier now after spending 7 years of his life creating this exhibit.

Standring: A lot of people don’t realize that it takes a whole village to put these things together sure, I mean, I was out there trolling all over Europe and North America to get loans and that was hard enough, and trying to orchestrate things along the way. But if we didn’t have strong team members with our graphic designer our installation designer...

Wham: Part of the difficulty in putting together such a complex exhibit, says Strandring, is the artist himself. Most everyone is familiar with the works of Vincent Van Gogh, but there's more to this collection.

Standring: It is not just an objects exhibition in which you've just assembled Van Gogh’s works. But we gave the storyline, it’s like producing a film.

Wham: And that storyline depicts Van Gogh's works in order of his creative development. From his simple line drawings in the beginning, to his more complex works after he found his artistic voice in Paris. Since the exhibit has been created from scratch, Standring says everything had to be developed right down to the lighting of the art work itself.

Standring: You all think that there it's just a spotlight on a painting, and it is not. The science of this is that they put a wall wash, as it were, they flood the whole the whole wall with a lower lumen number and then they put a square designer light that just includes the image.

Wham: Even the color scheme of the museum’s walls – a soothing mild grey-blue – is perfect to showcase the art that's ornately framed in gold. It’s something that Standring says he and his design team happily fought over.

Standring: This is just Chinese drip torture, excuse me, about how we decide these things – I’m being facetious here – and having fun, but the important thing is that we took saturated colors like this that really work and lend to the various segments and differences throughout the exhibition.

Wham: Critics have pointed out that the Becoming Van Gogh exhibit is as edifying as it is visually luscious. But for Dr. Timothy Standring – who said that he did not start the exhibition as a Van Gogh scholar but became one-- the story of Van Gogh is much more than a collection of art. What was something that you may have discovered about yourself through creating this beautiful exhibit?

Standring: Oh, I think that I discovered that I had to be, to have as much fortitude as Van Gogh did, to make it come through because I simply said I am not going to fail.

Wham: A powerful lesson considering that Van Gogh was unsuccessful in being an art clerk, a theology student, a social worker, and a teacher before finally deciding to become an artist.

Standring: You read and you admire somebody who failed at four careers but was fiercely intelligent and overcame all odds in his attempt to succeed, I mean, that's what you basically have with Van Gogh. I mean, look at all the people here. This is Tuesday – Tuesday – and we're sold out.

Wham: Becoming Van Gogh – the visual story of about how Van Gogh’s earlier self-taught experiments in the Netherlands came to fruition after his period in Paris – will be at the Denver Art Museum through January 20th.