A museum minute with Axel

A museum minute with Axel

2015-03-06 - Who better to give a tour through the newly-designed Van Gogh Museum than its Director Axel Rüger? Formerly white walls have been painted in different colours and more emphasis lies on Vincent van Gogh as a person, a friend and of course a painter.

Naturally, the well-known masterpieces are still given central stage in this temple of Dutch national heritage but it seems the museum today is more accessible than ever.


How do you ensure that you stay relevant as a cultural institution, is it a challenge with the number of tourists coming to the museum each year?

"We try to remain relevant in everything we do starting by showing the permanent collection and hosting educational programmes and exhibitions, but also through research. We are always trying to learn more about Van Gogh, who he was as a person and what moved him as an artist. You know it’s more about finding the balance between being a cultural institution and a tourist destination, and I’m very happy that we have so many visiting tourists."


Why is Vincent van Gogh such an international superstar?

"The reason for him being one of the most famous, if not the most recognised artist on the planet is a rather special combination of factors: his work is very attractive to us, his use of bold colours, his brushwork, his accessible subject matter and the fact that his work speaks to our modern-day aesthetic. Second is that we know so much about his life and what motivated him as an artist thanks to the letters that he wrote to his brother Theo. Then thirdly, there is the fact that he died of an unnatural death at such as early age. People will forever speculate about a person with the notion of a great talent and promise who dies at an early age. Take Amy Winehouse, JFK, Jim Morrisson or Marilyn Monroe, all these people have this great aura surrounding them."


The museum and its permanent collection have recently been completely redesigned and focus much more on storytelling, could you tell us why storytelling is so important to the museum?

"Because we increasingly relate to things via storytelling and, you know, this is one big story; the life and works of Vincent van Gogh. Just look at our new website, it focuses on entire stories that look at certain aspects of Van Gogh’s life. We make use of that in the presentation of the art as well so we are looking not just at his work but also at that of his contemporaries. Van Gogh wasn’t some isolated genius who fell from the sky, he grew up surrounded by artists who inspired him and who he in turn was able to inspire."

What is the most common misconception about Van Gogh?

"That he was just plain crazy, and that he just flung paint at the canvas in some kind of manic state. Our research has shown that he actually worked in a very methodical way, he practised endlessly. He was very dedicated.”

Can you tell us why the Van Gogh Museum approached Bugaboo to collaborate on a collection?

"Well I’m always interested in brands with great products which work on a global level, as Van Gogh is a global brand in itself. I think there is a great fit between the accessibility of Van Gogh and a brand such as Bugaboo. It also helps that they are both very popular."


Is design something you are interested in?

"Absolutely! We are embarking on a completely new product line working with young Dutch designers and also top designers in the near future. This summer when we open our new shop, we will reveal more..."

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