While our mission for last week’s trip to Amsterdam was to disencumber a friend’s beer cellar, doing the job right was thirsty work. Silent Seth and I shirked our scheduled vices one day and snuck off for a long full day of hooky at the Rijksmuseum and the van Gogh Museum — and I can prove it. Here’s video of me in the lobby of the van Gogh Museum, right outside the gift shop. So whatever else might have happened that day, I had nothing to do with it. You’ll never pin it on me, copper. I was doing kulcha. In Amsterdam.
It’s lucky that most of the Rijksmuseum collection is closed for renovations; what little we saw of it was enchanting (love the dollhouses), and took a long time to absorb. I dandled my sore feet in the plaza fountain outside to get in the mood for the van Gogh Museum, where the most remarkable aspect of the special Manet exhibition was the selection of Monet paintings. (I didn’t understand that either, but hey.)
A funny thing about Vincent van Gogh. If you know his work from American museum collections, exhibits that pass through town, and the occasional art history course, you are probably amazed at the power and depth of his vision. It’s a different story at the Amsterdam van Gogh Museum. We’ve got some of his finest work hanging here in New York, and very little apart from pure masterworks. In Amsterdam some of the collection is murky, abrupt, flat, unkempt. Here Starry Night and Cypresses truly do cast spells from the MOMA walls, and Vincent can soar into legend. It’s different over there.
Elvis Costello once noted that snapshots are usually only upper-body portraits; if you look at enough of them, you start to wonder, “where are the feet?” He wrote a new set of lyrics to one of his songs, explaining that this new version was the feet. That’s the difference at the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They’ve got the legend, as well as the feet.
Speaking of which, today is Elvis Costello’s 50th birthday. Happy birthday, Little Hands of Concrete.