VINCENT VAN GOGH IN GREEN FACADE FORMAT
(1) Vincent van Gogh, A Wheatfield with Cypresses (1889). In <http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/vincent-van-gogh-a-wheatfield-with-cypresses>
Although some art museums have incorporated impressive vertical gardens on their facades, none has done the exercise of reproducing on their exterior walls a recognized painting as did the National Gallery in London with the work A Wheatfield with Cypresses in 2011. This action allowed the viewer to re-value a historical moment in art and rethink questions about the transversality of a character as important as Vincent Van Gogh, who, through the use of vibrant colors and vigorous and swirling brushstrokes, presents a symbolic and expressive look of the landscape.
Fascinated by the qualities of light and the exterior view, during his stay at the sanatorium of Saint Paul de Mausole in Saint Rémy, the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh painted in 1889 three versions of A Wheatfield with Cypresses. The series, also known as A Cornfield with Cypresses, is nothing more than a record of the view that Van Gogh had from the window of his room, from where he could perceive “a field of wheat ravaged and riveted” (1). In a matter of time, he already painted one of the clearest canvases ever made with a field of yellow wheat and sumptuous cypresses.
(1) Vincent van Gogh, Cartas a Theo (Letters to Theo) (Bogotá: Grupo Editorial Norma, 2002), p.353, 356.
Probably, Van Gogh never imagined in his brief life of interior odyssey (he died shortly before he turned 37, shortly after leaving Saint Rémy in 1890) that he would become one of the most famous artists in the world. No doubt, he did not assume that one of the three versions of AWheatfield with Cypresses would belong to the collection of National Gallery, which contains one of the largest collections of world art in Western Europe. Nor did he imagine that his art would influence a new generation of artists, institutions, and companies that would be inspired by his life and his works.
In fact, A Wheatfield with Cypresses became a source of inspiration for the National Gallery when, in May 2011, it revealed to the public a green facade with the re-creation of Van Gogh’s work made up of more than 8,000 plants. The idea, funded by the multinational company General Electric (GE), dedicated to the innovation of infrastructure, financial services, and media, was an advertising campaign called Living Painting GE, created to reduce the carbon footprint of the gallery.
From an aesthetic perspective, this work was precisely chosen for its strong stripes of color that could be effectively reproduced by the plant material in a two-dimensional plane. Thus, after about four months in production, it was possible to recreate the work. The biggest challenge was to represent, as accurately as possible, an oil on canvas of unique characteristics since the painter used color arbitrarily in relation to reality to express his emotions more strongly. However, by means of a digital system, GE matched the shapes and colors of the painting by using a pattern of 26 different varieties of plant species in a vertical garden 22 m high, which was located on the outskirts of the museum, in Trafalgar Square, until the end of October 2011. Although other art museums have incorporated impressive vertical gardens on their facades, such as the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris (2005), the Caixa Forum in Madrid (2007) and the Pérez Art Museum in Miami (2013), none has performed the exercise of reproducing a recognized painting (2).
(2) The projects named were done by the French botanist Patrick Blanc, who works for the Center National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and patented as the concept of Vertical Garden in the 1980s. In <http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com> (2015).
Although the work was exhibited for only five months, this opportunity allowed the viewer to re-value a historical moment in art and to rethink questions about the transversality of a character as important as Vincent Van Gogh, who broke the aesthetic canons established in search of a new style to create a symbolic and expressive look of the landscape, paradoxically, different or contrary to a description of reality through vibrant, bold colors, vigorous and swirling brushstrokes.
(2) Photographic record of the installation Living Painting GE, National Gallery (London, 2011). In <http://theexpertsagree.com/tag/london/>
(3) Photographic record of the installation Living Painting GE, National Gallery (London, 2011). In <http://theexpertsagree.com/tag/london/>
(4) Patrick Blanc, Quai Branly Museum (París, May 2006). In <http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/realisations/paris/quai-branly-museum>
(5) Patrick Blanc, Caixa Forum (Barcelona, Sept. 2008) In <http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/node/1414>
(6) Patrick Blanc, PAMM Museum, Some Green Columns (Miami, Dec. 2013). In <http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/realisations/miami/perez-art-museum-miami>