A detail of the Vincent Van Gogh painting "Almond blossom" (1890) is seen in this handout photo provided by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh museum hopes to raise tens of millions of euros from the sale of new, three-dimensional reproductions of the Dutch artist's works to fund its own renovation work and research. Photo by Reuters
It would be the envy of forgers: a technology that can mint
near-perfect reproductions of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings at
a rate of three a day, with differences only experts can
So far, five of the Dutch painter's best-known works,
including "Sunflowers" and "The Harvest", have undergone the
treatment in a project backed by Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum
using technology developed by the Fujifilm unit of Fujifilm
"This is the next generation of reproductions. In the past we
had lithographs, then photographs, first black and white,
then colour. Now these are reproductions in three
dimensions," Axel Rueger, director of the museum, said.
Each numbered copy on canvas with relief costs €25,000. The
complex production process means only three can be produced a
day, although prices may come down as production becomes
cheaper and easier, Rueger said.
That's more than the usual $15 university dorm poster of
"Sunflowers" but a lot less than the $US82.5 million Japanese
businessman Ryoei Saito paid in 1990 for Van Gogh's "Portrait
of Dr Gachet" at a Christie's auction, or the $US53.9 million
Australian businessman Alan Bond paid for "Irises" in 1987.
The market is unlikely to feel any impact from the cheaper
but technically proficient copies, one art expert said.
"I don't see any harm done to rich Van Gogh collectors
globally," Jop Ubbens, head of Christie's in Amsterdam, told
"It is a brilliant innovation from a merchandising
perspective by the museum reaching out to a total new target
group, something completely different and very creative."
Like many arts institutions hit by government budget cuts,
the Van Gogh Museum is turning to the private sector and
commercial ventures for funds.
It hopes to raise tens of millions of euros for its own
renovation and research by selling the three-dimensional
reproductions, known as "Relievos".
The original work is copied using Fujifilm's Reliefography
technique, which combines a three-dimensional scan of the
painting with a high-resolution print.
A copy of the painting is first made on canvas, producing a
colourless relief. Ink is applied so the brush strokes match
those in the original. The image is framed and the same
process is used to apply copies of the torn and splotchy
official stamps stuck to the back of the frame and canvas.
Van Gogh's paintings appear highly textured as he used a
technique known as "impasto", where the paint is applied
thickly to the canvas, showing the brush or knife strokes.
"It's reasonably difficult to see the difference between the
copy and the original. Maybe the edges of the brush strokes
are not quite so sharp on the copy and the overall sheen is
fairly even, whereas on the original the varnish can vary,"
The Van Gogh Museum picked five of the artist's most famous
works for the first set of Relievos, including "Almond
Blossom" (1890), "Wheatfield under Thunderclouds" (1890) and
"Boulevard de Clichy" (1887), as well as "Sunflowers" (1889)
and "The Harvest" (1888).
For each of the five paintings, the museum is producing a
limited edition of 260 reproductions.
Luxury hotels and casinos are possible buyers, and some may
be used for educational purposes, Rueger said.
"Van Gogh is very popular in Asia, and Hong Kong is a very
commercial market," Rueger said. "People in Asia have
different attitude to reproductions. There was a lot of