Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Visiting Vincent

While in Amsterdam recently I went to the Van Gogh museum. The first time I went was 16 years ago. It was at the tail end of a 17 country camping tour around Europe over a 45 day period (It was intents) with a bunch of Aussies and Kiwis. Tours of Europe sometimes become ABC (Another Bloody Church) and tours of Africa ABS (Another Bloody Sunset). By the time we got to Amsterdam, the Anzacs were ABMed - not keen for another museum. They were however prepared to make an exception for Heineken. After joining them there, I headed to the Rijksmuseum alone and sat in front of De Nachtwacht for an hour. At the start I thought it was average. By the end, it had become one of my favourite paintings. I then headed to pay homage to Vincent.

De Nachtwacht

On this trip to the Van Gogh museum, I was able to pass by the Heineken Museum with no more than a nod. What I wasn't able to do was pass by the crowds. Poor Vincent may not have been able to afford the entry price. I normally try find free stuff to do when visiting cities (walking, parks etc.), other than my rent - a few cups of coffee and some food at my 'office for the day'. I was about to leave when I thought I was being silly. Suck it up. Join the queue. It's Van Gogh.

An hour later I was inside with the crowds. The museum is wonderfully designed, but a little like being in traffic leaving London on a Friday, or returning on a Sunday. I would rather they scattered one original in each coffee shop (the dark liquid, not the green leaf) in Amsterdam and let you do walking tours. 

What struck me is that the story I have of Van Gogh is a little wrong. He may have just sold one painting, but he swapped a hell of a lot more than that. I would also swap paintings with Gauguin! In a world of Smarter Barter, perhaps Artificial Intelligence will be able to replace money with a co-ordination tool that allows us to exchange things we can do, or have, with others efficiently. Theo and Vincent Van Gogh built up an incredible collection over the course of a decade. This body of work became the backbone for Theo's wife and son to spread the legend of Vincent.


It seems he was a prolific networker. Not in a cynical way. He was constantly looking for amazing people to learn from. He decided to become an artist at age 27. So much for your 10,000 hours having to be when you are a lighty. He spent the next decade both searching out other artists to challenge his world view, and finding moments to retreat and create.

The biggest lesson for me from Van Gogh's life is not that of a struggling artist. His life was rich with relationships, and his upper-middle class family and brother provided him the buffer to explore. The biggest lesson for me is that it is never too late to invest in things you love doing, and the people you love being with.

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