Van Gogh and Surrealist Exhibitions in NZ This Year | NZ Fine Prints

Van Gogh and Surrealist Exhibitions Landing in NZ This Year

Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait on wall

Two exciting exhibitions are on in Aotearoa in 2021: the enormously successful “Van Gogh Alive” experience and a visiting collection of surrealist works in Te Papa. Both exhibitions shine a light on some of the most enduring art of our history, and both aim to showcase the work in new and provocative ways. In this blog, we’re exploring the subject matter of these shows and delving deeper into the details of the exhibitions, to give you an idea of what to expect.


The Legacy of Vincent Van Gogh

While very well-known today, Vincent Van Gogh spent his entire career working in obscurity. Over ten years, he created over two thousand artworks, including roughly 860 oil paintings, many of which he completed in the last two years of his life. It was in this later period that he developed the style he is famous for today; much of his highly expressive brushwork isn’t present in a large majority of his early work. The Dutch post-impressionist painter only became a major influence on western art after his death at 37, in 1890. This has made him the archetype of the “tortured artist” and given his story a poetic, tragic quality that plays into his enduring popularity. Despite the common perception of his creativity and mental illness being two sides of the same coin, it’s largely accepted now that he only painted during those times in his life in which he was not depressed or in poverty. Regardless, his work lives on, and prints of Vincent Van Gogh paintings remain some of the most popular items we have ever stocked here at NZ Fine Prints.


Van Gogh Alive

The “Van Gogh Alive” experience first came to New Zealand last year, appearing on Wellington’s waterfront as ‘Digital Nights’. The new show is a large-scale, indoor installation, designed to take attendees on a journey through the various stages of Van Gogh’s life, and transport them to the places he lived and worked over his career, such as Arles, Saint Rémy, and Auvers-sur-Oise. The experience is a multi-media adventure, including a musical score and projected moving images, offering visitors the chance to go beyond the surface of each of Van Gogh’s works and step inside them instead. The installation has been confirmed to exceed the government’s current COVID-19 health guidelines. The show has already concluded in Wellington, but tickets are still available to book for the current run in Christchurch, which concludes on March 28, and the upcoming opening in Auckland, which will run from April 10 through to May 6.


From Van Gogh to Surrealism

In many ways, Van Gogh paved the way in the late 19th century for the surrealist movement in the early 20th century, which has its roots in numerous earlier traditions, post-impressionism included. The first surrealist manifestos were published only 30 or so years after Van Gogh’s death. Like Van Gogh, surrealist paintings have proven to be enduring, although it’s harder to say why. The abstract nature of the work may give it a timeless quality; many surrealist pieces look like they could have been painted yesterday. It’s also possible that art movements tend to remain popular when they are attached to an idea or a way of life. Early adherents of surrealism certainly talked about it being more than just an art movement; they wanted to create a new way of life, and challenge existing conceptions about how people ought to think and act. As humans, we tend to enjoy the concept of trailblazers, especially in art.


Te Papa’s Upcoming Surrealism Exhibition

Due to open last June but postponed due to COVID-19, this upcoming exhibition will showcase 180 surrealist works, including well-known paintings by Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Marcel Duchamp, and more. Organised by Te Papa curator Lizzie Bisley, the exhibition is possible thanks to the collection’s usual home—the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen—being closed for renovations. It is the first time the collection will be on display in Australasia and the first opportunity many Kiwis will have ever had to see some of the world’s most famous surrealist pieces first-hand. Like the “Van Gogh Alive” experience, this exhibition will feature digital projections and interactive elements. Visitors will even be invited to record their own dreams, so they can take part in the creation of surrealist art too! Te Papa is planning to run a schedule of public events in tandem with the exhibition, to further enhance the showing.


Bring a piece of art history home

Here at New Zealand Fine Prints, we have a wide range of pieces from many famous art movements. Our collection includes the largest range of prints of surrealism paintings in New Zealand, from artists such as Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher and Rene Magritte. If you want a piece of art history to call your own, browse our collection today, and find one that speaks to you!