Thursday, May 23, 2024

Vincent van Gogh has been surprisingly busy for a dead man. His paintings have been featured in major museum exhibitions this year. Immersive theaters in cities like Miami and Milan are projecting his swirling landscapes. His designs now appear on a variety of products, from sneakers to doormats, and a recent collaboration with the Pokémon gaming franchise was so popular that buyers stampeded at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, forcing it to suspend selling the trading cards in the gift shop.

However, one of the boldest attempts at championing van Gogh’s legacy yet is at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, where a lifelike doppelgänger of the Dutch artist chats with visitors, offering insights into his life and death. The doppelgänger, called “Bonjour Vincent,” was assembled by engineers using artificial intelligence to parse through some 900 letters that the artist wrote during the 1800s, as well as early biographies written about him. The algorithm still needed some human guidance on how to answer the touchiest questions from visitors, including the question of why van Gogh killed himself. The A.I. van Gogh also steers the conversation on sensitive topics like suicide to messages of resilience.

The Musée D’Orsay partnered with several companies to bring the Van Gogh A.I. program on Amazon Alexa and Echo devices within the next year. The museum also entered into a separate virtual reality experience, “Van Gogh’s Palette,” which is a shared production between the museum, Vive Arts, Lucid Realities, and Tournez S’il Vous Plait.

The use of van Gogh’s paintings in various digital media, including the video game world of Roblox, has received mixed reactions from art historians. As museums continue their digital efforts, they are exploring new methods to connect with audiences, but the commercialization of van Gogh’s paintings has raised concerns among some scholars.

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