An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago has brought together all three versions of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most iconic works, "The Bedroom," for the first time in North America.
This alone is a big deal as the AIC, which has held the second 1889 version of the celebrated scene de chambre — “arguably the most famous chambre in the history of art” — since 1926, has never been in possession of the first and third iterations of the painting, which are normally on display at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, respectively.
Titled "Van Gogh’s Bedrooms," the exhibition also brings together numerous other works from the artist — paintings, sketches, letters and assorted ephemera — all centered around the themes of domesticity and place-making. The AIC has also, in collaboration with online lodging platform Airbnb, conceived an immersive — if not completely disorienting — environment in which you can step into the troubled Dutch sunflower enthusiast's chambre … and even spend the night.
Yes, that’s right: a wildly uncanny replica of Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom” that’s also an honest-to-goodness Airbnb listing.
The AIC has carefully mimicked the texture, the color, the everything about Van Gogh’s bedroom at his beloved Provençal digs, the so-called "Yellow House" at 2 Place Lamartine in the city of Arles, as he depicted it in “The Bedroom.” From the bedside washbasin to the faded green paint streaks on the wooden floor, no detail has been overlooked.
Considering that every object, every piece of furniture in the room has been stylized and arranged to mirror the painting, I’d feel bad moving things around, if even slightly, when hunkering down for the night. After all, how could you disrupt a living painting? And don’t expect to plug in your iPhone next to your head as you slumber as, true to the painting, there appears to be a complete absence of outlets — and other trappings of modernity, for that matter — in the bedroom.
And although that bed, dressed in a simple red blanket, doesn’t appear outrageously comfy, I can certainly think of worse paintings to sleep in.
"We're hoping that people who stay in the room will be inspired by their surroundings to share that experience through social media," Amanda Hicks of the Art Institute of Chicago tells ABC 7. "We have a hope that everyone who stays there will be inspired by the experience to then come to the museum and see a more nuanced and deeper look at Van Gogh's life in France."
The bedroom itself is located about 10 blocks from the Art Institute of Chicago campus within an apartment that, presumably, doesn’t set out to replicate a late 19th century artwork. (Read: there’s wireless Internet, cable TV, a washer/dryer and even access to a swimming pool and gym). And while Chicago’s trendy River North neighborhood is decidedly not the sun-drenched south of France, there does appear to be a patisserie or two in the ‘hood and a smattering of well-regarded bistros including Bistro Voltaire, where you can feast on moules marinieres and côtelettes de porc before retiring to your post-Impressionist oil painting for the night.
And no, you won’t enjoy views like this from your sparsely appointed chambers. That view, immortalized in “Starry Night,” was seen not from Van Gogh's bedroom in Arles but from his room at Saint-Paul de Mausole, the asylum where the artist sought refuge in 1888 after a certain incident involving a razor blade and his left ear. (And yes, it's largely believed that Van Gogh performed that career-defining act of self-mutilation in his Arles bedroom, although some historians might beg to differ.)
As for the cost to rest your head in such an entrancing/trippy Airbnb listing, you really won’t find anything more affordable in the Chicago area let alone in such a desirable part of town: it’s just $10 a night.
Reads a note from your humble yet unstable host, Vincent: “I’m charging $10 for no other reason than that I need to buy paint. However, I will be happy to provide you with tickets to my exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago."
In news that should shock no one, all available nights for February have been claimed on Airbnb. However, more opportunities to crash in “The Bedroom” will open up through the run of the exhibition, which closes on May 10. Keep an eye on AIC’s Facebook page for updates.