Travel ban for Amsterdam museum's 'fragile' Van Gogh's Sunflowers

Renovator Rene Boitelle works to restore Van Gogh's Sunflowers painting at Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Jan 24, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
Van Gogh Museum's Director Axel Ruger presents the research results and condition of the restoration of Van Gogh's painting, Sunflower, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Jan 24, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said on Thursday (Jan 24) its version of Sunflowers will no longer be allowed to travel after restoration work showed it was in a "fragile" condition.

The museum in the Dutch capital is one of only five in the world with a copy of Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece, and it rarely goes abroad, with the last time being 2014.

But international experts involved in the restoration said that even that was too much for the 130-year-old painting, meaning that it will now "stay at home in Amsterdam".

"An important conclusion of the research is that the soil and paint layers are stable, but very sensitive to vibrations and changes in air humidity and temperature," Van Gogh Museum director Axel Rueger said.

"It is therefore important that the painting is moved as little as possible and in a stable climate. To avoid taking any risks, the museum has decided that it will no longer be possible to let Sunflowers travel."

The restoration found that the painting was "stable but fragile", the museum said in a statement.

It will go back on display in February.

Sunflowers has been lent out only six times since the museum opened in 1973, with the last time to the National Gallery in London in 2014, so it could hang next to that museum's own version.

The other versions are in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art in Tokyo.

The Tokyo version briefly set the record for the world's most expensive artwork when it was sold to a Japanese firm in 1987 for US$40 million (S$54.42 million), before losing the crown a few months later to Van Gogh's Irises.

The Dutch master painted a series of Sunflowers paintings, which rank among his most famous works, while he lived in Arles in the south of France between 1888-89.

Sunflowers had a special significance for Van Gogh, who once wrote in a letter to a friend that they conveyed "gratitude".

Van Gogh committed suicide at the age of 37 in 1890.

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