Quiet behind the scenes

My life has changed drastically in recent months. I travel a lot for work. Last year I was in Potsdam, where there was an exhibition in Museum Barberini. And now, for months I have been looking forward to a trip to Japan, where I was going to see a museum in Tokyo. But then came Covid-19. At first I heard some rumours about it, but suddenly, from one day to the next, our museum was empty and I was moved to the depot. The doors were closed, the visitors stopped coming and it was also quiet behind the scenes. With the exception of a few security guards, the depot manager and a conservator, who did a round once, I saw no one anymore. The silence was strange, it wasn’t easy to get used to. It took a long time. Until there was more activity in the days before 1 June. Gradually, more people started coming and things were moving again in the exhibition spaces. The arrangement of the museum was altered, walking routes were created and the visitors finally arrived again. It was so good to hear voices in the building again.

Japan trip cancelled

Slowly I began to dream about my trip to Japan again. How wonderful it would be to be somewhere other than here again; I am a traveller, after all. I want people all over the world to see me. It’s no coincidence that I’m a painting in a museum. My dream, however, was short-lived. Our registrar, who arranges all my trips, said that the trip to Japan really wouldn’t be possible. There are very few flights these days, museums have to make choices in their programming and loans from around the world are the first thing to go, and nobody would be able to accompany me either. I don’t normally travel alone, I prefer to have someone to constantly keep an eye on me. I found it hard to comprehend that I wasn’t going to Japan.

A different way to travel

All the works of art around me now travel alone. Not that no one is keeping an eye on them; all sorts of ways are being devised to still allow the loan traffic to continue. Particularly in these strange times, with museums half open, it remains important that visitors in other museums and countries can see our wonderful collection. Works are still being loaned, but everything has changed. Very large works and works that are so fragile they cannot travel unaccompanied remain at home. The works that are allowed to travel are monitored digitally. During the travel and installation, our registrar and conservators have digital contact with the borrowers. All kinds of new solutions are sought and found and the (inter)national network of registrars and conservators is more important than ever.Padua


And then, while I was still mourning my faded dream, the registrar asked if I might like to go to Italy. ‘They are having a beautiful exhibition about colours in the life of Van Gogh, would you like to go?’ she said. And now I have a new dream; I’m going to Padua!

Vincent van Gogh, Still life with meadow flowers and roses, 1886-1887


Still life with meadow flowers and roses is on display from 10 October 2020 to 11 April 2021 in the exhibition Van Gogh. I colori della vita at the Centro San Gaetano in Padua.