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DEAR ABBEY SY, LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR TWEETS

Van Gogh is shookt

Updated

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (Image from the Van Gogh Gallery)

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (Image from the Van Gogh Gallery)

Dear Abbey Sy,

When I read your tweets about Vincent Van Gogh and about how much of a fan you are, I was glad. It’s always nice to see somebody who appreciates art, someone who, as you said, “know his work as a whole.” A master like Van Gogh deserves nothing less, of course.

But I’m not so sure the Dutch impressionist would’ve appreciated it. You see, as someone whose artistic “career” started at the age of 27, I would imagine Van Gogh as a dynamic artist who wanted to put his art out there for many people to see. And he did, as much as he could. Except not very many people appreciated it at that time. He did sell some—if you are, indeed, a Van Gogh connoisseur, you would know that The Red Vineyard myth has been put in question by scholars.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s go back to your tweets, which you have since deleted and apologized for. Maybe I’ll talk about that apology, but let me first tell you why your tweets, your “opinions,” offended people—if you haven’t yet understood why.

‘Van Gogh became super mainstream na kasi.’
Why is that an issue? I’m surprised it comes from someone like you, dear Abbey, who is called an “influencer,” i.e. someone who is mainstream because of your followers. This point about mainstream and—What’s its opposite? Hispter? Elite?—is a tad too juvenile, don’t you think? I had students before who would start hating a band or a singer whenever they started becoming “mainstream.” What is wrong with mainstream?

And we’re talking about art here, right? As you said in your apology, “art is for everyone.” But I don’t know whether to believe an apology or your unfiltered opinion. Perhaps the latter was more honest?

‘Also puro pictures na naman yan pang #content.’
Again, I am surprised to read this from an “influencer.” You make content all the time. Why can’t regular peeps do the same thing?

Yes, I agree that people run the risk of missing the whole point of viewing an exhibit if they will just be on their phones, looking for the best spots to take selfies with Van Gogh. To be honest, I don’t like that either.

But I think you missed on an opportunity to educate and encourage. Instead of tweeting from a proverbial social media high horse, you could’ve been more positive. You could’ve spurred people to try and appreciate Van Gogh’s art, maybe by giving them pointers on what to look for, on what makes his artworks good. I’m sure that, as a “Van Gogh fan,” you have a lot to say about his art.

Instead, as you said in a reply to someone who was hoping people will have a true appreciation for art, “I doubt it.” Plus emoji bleh.

‘Art is for everyone’
Yes, it is. There are already enough “gatekeepers” in the art industry that make it difficult for artists to make it out there—and there is reason for gatekeeping, of course, which I won’t talk about here. But what we don’t need are “gatekeepers” who will keep people from appreciating art, even from “digital screens” that “combine the trad and digital experience.”

Putting Van Gogh’s art on a different kind of exhibit does not, in any way, invalidate the experience of going to a museum, which a lot of people still do, not just you.

And no, it’s probably not “your old-fashioned self” that tweeted all of these. It’s perhaps a mistaken notion that art is inaccessible to most people. It will be if we continue to think the way you did.

I sincerely hope that “someday makaka-Amsterdam [ka] din.” Maybe there you will see that art isn’t confined to just the elite few. There, art is mainstream, as it should be.

My old-fashioned self,
Dom

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