In The City — 05 April 2014
As close to owning a van Gogh as you can go

You know art. OK, so you’re not a critic or a six-figure collector, but you know a heck of a lot more than those dilettantes who toss off “I know what I like” as if it means something. And you surely know enough to know that the masterpiece of masterpieces hanging under a spotlight in somebody’s home simply cannot be hanging there. It’s one of the most famous pieces in the world. Good grief, it’s van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

You’re at this little get-together at a friend of a friend’s when you enter the great room and are immediately struck by it – or rather, by its virtually identical copy. You know that this version of the artist’s six Sunflowers belongs to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and would never be sold. And yet, as you nose up to it, you are wide-eyed at van Gogh’s bold colors and impasto – the signature thickness of his strokes. This is quite a fake, you think; no print could hold such detailed relief.

“Hard to believe it’s a print, n’est-ce pas?” says the friend’s friend, who has caught you gaping. “Actually, it’s a 3-D reproduction, a Van Gogh Museum Edition – one of only 260 in the world.

“It was created by a new technology, Reliefography they call it,” he says. “It took Fujifilm Belgium seven years to develop. They take a 3-D scan of the painting’s surface texture and combine it with a high-resolution print. It takes them up to seven months to complete each one.”

“What was the price?” you just have to ask.

“Owning my own van Gogh…?” he says. “Priceless.”


Four other van Goghs are also included in the Museum Edition, which made its U.S. debut earlier this year at the LA Art Show. “It was very well-received,” says Diederick van Eck, CEO of Tribute International, the official U.S. distributor.

He believes the edition is fulfilling the wishes of the artist, who in 1892 wrote to his brother Theo: “…Making prints for the people is a plan to which I hope you’ll give some thought one day…. I believe it could be done in such a way that no one would need regret in having taken part.”

Theo’s great-great-grandson, Willem van Gogh, certainly has no regrets. “These reproductions resemble as closely as possible the original works,” he says. “As a result, this unique technology assists in making van Gogh’s legacy more fully available.”

Not surprisingly, one of the paintings has special meaning for Willem, an advisor to the museum board. “Almond Blossom means the most to me. Vincent painted this work at the occasion of the birth of his brother Theo’s son. This son was named Vincent and would become my great-grandfather. For this reason, this painting carries a personal significance and, moreover, it is a wonderful symbol of new life and fertility.”

Van Eck says the reproductions’ resemblance to the original paintings extends even to imaging on back of the canvas and to their custom-made wood frames. At the LA exhibit, he says, “a few times we had these questions: ‘Where are the security officers? These paintings must cost a fortune!’”

Speaking of which, if you must know, the starting price is $35,000 each – for a limited time.

—Greg Carannante

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