With New Global Art Tour, Facebook Gets You Up Close And Personal With Van Gogh

Willem van Gogh will take you on a personal journey through five Van Gogh “Sunflowers” paintings.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get an actual, real-life Van Gogh to show you some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, explaining their significance and recalling the personal memories they conjure?


Well, Facebook is inviting you on a global art exhibition–the first-ever live tour of five of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings in museums in five countries and three continents, one after another. It also includes a virtual reality experience that brings all five together in a single digital gallery and treats you to the personal memories of Willem van Gogh, the great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo, as he narrates the story of the five Sunflowers canvases painted in the French city of Arles in 1888 and 1889.

The paintings are now in museums in London, Amsterdam, Munich, Philadelphia, and Tokyo, and viewers who tune in on Facebook Live–via the Facebook pages of any of the museums, such as Philadelphia’s–will be treated to five consecutive 15-minute expositions, by the curators of each museum, on the different Sunflowers. This is the first time a global art “relay” like this has ever been possible, Facebook wrote in a release about the project.

Augmenting the global exhibition relay, the five participating museums–London’s National Gallery, Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, Munich’s Neue Pinakothek, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Tokyo’s Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art–have collaborated with Facebook on an immersive, 360-degree view of the paintings. Available for Samsung’s Gear VR or for Facebook 360, the virtual reality project–called Sunflowers 360–brings together the five museums’ paintings into a single, virtual room, with Willem van Gogh narrating.

For the museums, participating in a project like this is an obvious win, as it increases awareness of their collections–most notably, of course, their Van Goghs–and opens their doors, virtually at least, to audiences around the world that might never otherwise be able to visit important art like that of the Van Gogh Sunflowers.

As Willem van Gogh put it in Facebook’s release on the project, “Rather like the Mona Lisa and The Night Watch, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers are works of art that continue to intrigue and inspire, perhaps into eternity. Indeed, each generation forges a fresh, highly personal bond with them. The virtual gallery and live stream now provide a novel way for art lovers, young and old, to admire these magnificent masterpieces, from all corners of the globe.”

And for Facebook, the paired projects–the live global exhibition and Sunflowers 360–present an opportunity to showcase what can be done with Facebook Live and with its VR platform, perhaps inspiring more people to look for content in both places, and even better for Mark Zuckerberg’s company, create content on either platform.


About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications.