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We all have a Vincent in our lives, apparently…

19 July 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

If Rakewell’s inbox is to be believed, this year is all about Van Gogh. So far in 2016, the troubled Post-Impressionist has been celebrated in an animated film, had his bedroom recreated as an Airbnb rental in Chicago and even had his work recreated as ‘DNA Origami’ (nope, us neither).

If you thought all that was enough, think again. The most heavily puffed art book of the summer is without a doubt Bernadette Murphy’s Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story, a title that seeks to answer one of the more pressing art-historical questions of the past two centuries: namely, precisely how much of his ear did poor Vincent cut off? (Pretty much the whole thing, according to Murphy’s research.)

The award for Vincent publicity stunt of the year so far, however, can only go to slacker novelist-cum-artist Douglas Coupland, who is calling for gentlemen bearing a likeness to the artist in his self portraits to come forward for the chance to win €5,000. The scheme, run through a website called iamvincent.com, invites punters to submit photos of themselves putting on their best Vincent pout and then rate their favourites. The response has been astonishing, and with a $5,000 prize going to the candidate Coupland adjudges to be the best lookalike, it’s hardly surprising.

Say what you like, but it has certainly fired up the imaginations of red-headed males of a certain age. ‘I said ‘that’s me!’ I’ve been Vincent for a long time,’ Entrant Kim Ennis, an artist from Saskatoon told Canada’s Global News

When he has chosen a winner, Coupland will use the likeness to model an enormous bronze bust of the artist, supposedly ‘exploring genetics and globalisation’. The real reason, though, might be more simple. ‘I’m learning that most people have someone in their life who looks like Vincent van Gogh,’ he told The Guardian. With more than 1,000 lookalike pictures now submitted, you can’t help but suspect that this is a little too much of a good thing.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.