Van Gogh was murdered claims new film at Venice

A visitor takes a photo of a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh at the Winter Masterpieces exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons in Melbourne on April 27, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 04 September 2018
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Van Gogh was murdered claims new film at Venice

  • At Eternity’s Gate, starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival
  • Director Oscar Schnabel said the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because ‘all history is a lie’

VENICE: A new film about the artist Vincent Van Gogh claims that he was murdered rather than having shot himself.
“At Eternity’s Gate” starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival.
In it the painter is shot after a struggle with local youths near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, where the artist spent his final months in 1890.
He died 36 hours later after staggering back to the local inn in the dark.
While most historians agree that Van Gogh killed himself, renowned painter and Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel fuels a theory that he was killed in the film.
Legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere — who co-wrote the script with Schnabel — said there “is absolutely no proof he killed himself. Do I believe that Van Gogh killed himself? Absolutely not!”
“He came back to the auberge with a bullet in his stomach and nobody ever found the gun or his painting materials,” Carriere added.
“What we have been fighting against is the dark romantic legend of Van Gogh. In the last period of his life Van Gogh was working constantly. Every day he made a new work,” he said.
His final weeks, when he painted the “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” — which set a world record when it sold for $82.5 million (€77 million) in 1990 — were “not at all sad,” the writer argued.
Schnabel insisted that a man who had painted 75 canvasses in his 80 days at Auvers-sur-Oise was unlikely to be suicidal.
The theory that Van Gogh did not commit suicide was first raised in a 2011 biography of the painter by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Schnabel said neither the gun nor “the painting material he had that day were ever found. It is strange to bury your shit if you are committing suicide.”
“At Eternity’s Gate” is also likely to open a new front in the row over Van Gogh’s “lost” sketchbook, which purportedly resurfaced after 126 years in 2016 and was authenticated by two eminent art historians last year.
Veteran British expert Ronald Pickvance claimed the book was “the most revolutionary discovery in the history of Van Gogh” studies.
But the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam hotly disputes its provenance and dismissed the drawings as fakes.
The book, originally a ledger from the Cafe de la Gare in Arles where Van Gogh stayed at various times between 1888 and 1890, features prominently in the film.
Schnabel and his team examined the drawings for themselves with the director pressing Dafoe’s hand down into them, he said, to “force a transmission — a connection between me and Van Gogh.”
It clearly worked, with Defoe, who looks uncannily like the Van Gogh the film, already tipped for the best actor prize at Venice.
The actor said in shooting the film in the fields around Arles where the artist painted and in the asylum at Saint-Remy where he was held, “we flirted with Van Gogh’s ghost.”
Schnabel said the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because “all history is a lie.”
“I don’t care if the notebook is real or not real, if he killed himself or didn’t kill himself. It’s irrelevant. But in the film, it is nice to know there is another set of possibilities ...”
The film was also a chance for “me to say things about painting... and it was a lot of fun to speak through Von Gogh.”
The ebullient New Yorker also wanted to correct the “bad wrap” that Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin gets from history.
Van Gogh may have cut off his ear when the painter announced he was leaving him to return to Paris, but “Gauguin really cared about him,” Schnabel said.
“He is portrayed usually as an arsehole. Anthony Quinn (in the 1957 film “Lust for Life”) played him like that, but he wasn’t.”


Beirut Art Fair: For artists faced with the unfair

Rana Samara "Intimate Space".(Image supplied)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Beirut Art Fair: For artists faced with the unfair

  • The annual Beirut Art fair runs from Sept 20 to 23
  • The fair offers a platform for Arab artists to present their work to the outside world

ABU DHABI: Arab artists from countries across the Middle East and North Africa, including Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Morocco, shared visions of their homelands and experiences this week at the Beirut Art Fair.
The Samer Kozah Art Gallery in Damascus, the only Syrian gallery at this year’s event, displayed works by 12 Syrian painters and sculptors.
“Most of them are now based in Vienna, Paris, Denmark, Dubai, Beirut, and a few in Syria,” said Samer Kozah, the gallery’s founder and manager for the past 24 years. “It’s safer and easier for them to work from outside. I don’t know when they will come back but I hope they do — you can feel the country in their artwork.”
The annual fair, which runs from Sept. 20 to 23, offers a platform for Arab artists to present their work to the outside world, something that is much needed by those from areas embroiled in conflict and turmoil.
“Nobody comes to Damascus to see art anymore,” Kozah said. “They can see it online, send emails or view on Instagram but they used to come a lot more. The main market for Syrian art in the past was Lebanese and Gulf collectors.”

Mohamed Ablaon . (Image supplied)


Most galleries in Syria struggled during the civil war and were forced to close between 2013 and 2017, though there are signs of a slow recovery.
“It really affected the art industry here but most of them are now open, although it’s a bit quiet,” he said. “Everything can be shipped from here, but the Beirut Art Fair can always help.”
Palestinian artists face similar challenges, as many of them are unable to travel to showcase their work.
“The majority are based in Ramallah, others in Jerusalem, the Occupied Territories, Gaza and in the diaspora,” said Ziad Anani, director of the Zawyeh Gallery in Ramallah. “Their work is mainly political — even if it’s a landscape or a Palestinian family, many show the wall, the prisons, the construction and how we are losing the land.
“Palestinian artists are describing their emotions through their work and the surroundings they live in, from the checkpoints and occupation to the distances traveled.”
Many, however, are unable to travel to the fair to see their work on display due to passport issues.
“Some hold Palestinian papers and it’s even harder to get out of Palestine, so it’s not comfortable for them,” said Anani. “It’s not fair that all the other artists from around the world can see their work but Palestinian artists cannot. It seems like they are in prison; they cannot travel and cannot see the world, when they should be hearing other people’s opinions about their work, hear curators and see other artwork, so it’s a struggle.”
He said the only way people can learn about and understand this struggle the artists face is by seeing their work.
“It is through the art that we exhibit and the messages they send from that art,” he added. “We work with about 25 artists that work with paint, oil or acrylic, video, photography and cultural installations, and the event will be an opportunity to reach out to those who are interested in Palestinian art.”
He described Beirut as the cultural hub of the Middle East.

Hicham Benohoud. (Image supplied)


“It’s always focused on art and culture, and they also have a good number of Palestinians who live in Lebanon,” he said. “We know Palestinian art collectors living there and new initiatives, such as Dar El-Nimer (in Beirut, an interactive space dedicated to the culture of Palestine and the wider Arab world), are interested in collecting Palestinian art so, for us, Beirut is a good spot where we can reach out to those people and try to promote the work.”
Lama Koubrously, head of collections at Dar El-Nimer, said the art scene in Lebanon has been growing thanks to new art spaces, especially in Beirut.
“As an art foundation dedicated to showcasing cultural and artistic productions from the Arab world and the region, we believe it is a necessity to have a platform to raise awareness of art practices, including film screenings, debates, exhibitions, workshops and auctions,” she said. “Moreover, Dar El-Nimer is a place that invites both professionals and amateurs to exchange dialogue with regard to the current art scene shaping the region. Over the years the Beirut Art Fair has been bringing an influx of people from the art world, which is putting Lebanon on the art map.”
Karim Francis, owner of the Karim Francis Art Gallery in Egypt, agrees.
“If you look at the Middle East, what is left are the Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon,” he said. “Lebanon is a small country but it’s quite active and there is a lot of interest in art. Each country usually looks to his own artists, but Lebanon looks to its own and also around – in the end it’s all linked in one area.”
Francis, who is participating at the fair for the first time, is part of the Egyptian pavilion, where he will showcase pieces inspired by Coptic, Islamic, folkloric and Egyptian art.
“It gives a small panorama into what’s going on in Egypt,” he said. “The art scene across the region is growing and becoming more active.”
Gallery Misr, also from Egypt, works with seven artists and presented their work at the fair.

Hosni Radwan"Out of Place". (Image supplied)


“Beirut has more of a personality than other places where you find art fairs,” said gallery founder Mohamed Talaat, who worked for 12 years at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. “Dubai is more global but Beirut has something different about it. It has great culture and a good connection with Paris.”
The fair this year featured more than 50 art galleries from 20 countries, exhibiting more than 1,600 works by 250 artists. It includes 18 first-time exhibitors, alongside 33 returning galleries, with two sections dedicated to galleries that focus on modern and contemporary art from the region.
“To me, the fair is an interesting place to exhibit, as a local and international artistic platform with many collectors, galleries and foundations, not only from Lebanon but also Europe, Africa and Asia,” said Jacques-Antoine Gannat, international development director at the Loft Art Gallery in Morocco, which exhibited Moroccan photographer Hicham Benohoud’s new series, “Landscaping.”
“For us, it’s also the link between the Maghreb and the Middle East, with its similarities and differences.
The fair is ‘human-size,’ which allows collectors and galleries to meet more easily than at some bigger fairs.”