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Van Gogh'ing, Going, Gone: Museum Collaboration with Pokemon Goes Awry

Van Gogh'ing, Going, Gone: Museum Collaboration with Pokemon Goes Awry
October 5, 2023
Dylan Dittrich

Left: Pikachu inspired by ‘Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat’, Naoyo Kimura (1960), The Pokémon Company International, ©2023 Pokémon / Nintendo / Creatures / GAME FREAK. Right: Vincent van Gogh, ‘Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat’, 1887, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

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Vincent van Gogh x Pikachu.Now that is an ambitious collaboration! In celebration of the Van Gogh Museum's 50th anniversary, it partnered with Pokémon to open special exhibits reimagining the artist's work to incorporate Pokémon characters. The idea was to create an interactive and fun way to learn about Van Gogh through a familiar lens.

Imagine waking ole Vinny up from a deep slumber to break the news. "Hey bud, long time. So you know your Self Portrait with Grey Felt Hat? Yeah, great work on that. Solid piece. Just had some ideas though. Like we thought maybe we'd tweak it just a little bit, so we swapped you out for something called a 'Pikachu.' Now it's perfect. Gotta catch 'em all, right?!"

Artists rolling in their graves aside, it's a fun collaboration to establish a connection between old, beloved art and new audiences. You know what would make it even more fun? If they gave away a Pokémon promo card to those that follow clues and complete a quest in the exhibits! At least that's what they thought...

We live in 2023, where the idea of some wholesome funtivities for children quickly takes a backseat to the monetary interests of eager resellers. The museum was absolutely swarmed with chaotic and frenzied efforts to lay claim to the card. Just like the bleachers when a historic home run ball is belted over the fence, this was not a safe and fun environment for children.

It was only last week when we detailed the recent strength of sums paid for special, limited edition Pikachu cards. But "Pikachu with Grey Felt Hat" is no Trophy or Illustrator card. Already, nearly 5,000 copies have been sold on eBay, doubtless including countless fakes. Still, prices approached $1,000 per card in certain instances last week, and they still hover over $100. Not awful for a €20 museum ticket.

Those prices only grow more ridiculous upon understanding that the frenzied scene at the museum has already led Pokémon to apologize and confirm that they're working to provide even more promo cards to customers. The antidote to reseller shenanigans? Print, print, and print some more.

This isn't the first example of an artist collaboration with a more modern franchise; the Van Gogh Museum and MoMa have been active in threading the artist through more contemporary fabric. We've seen Van Gogh Lego sets, Bearbricks, Swatch watches, you name it. And guess what? Very few of these items trade on secondary markets for significantly more than retail price.

Basquiat and Warhol have graced similar products, and the story is largely the same. Why? Because they're really fun collectors' items, but they're not the source material. Or even reproductions of the source material commissioned by the artist while still alive. The supply of any one knick-knack might be fixed, but the potential supply of any variation of the reproduced work is effectively infinite. It's the same reason people are skeptical of the staying power of Bowman's new Retrofractors. Sure, they say Ruth will never be featured in Bowman again, but do people really think they've seen the last of modern Ruth prints? Dubious.

You can rest assured that certain riches will not elude you if you don't secure a card, so maybe let the kids enjoy the Pokémon exhibit, huh? Unless you happen to be in Amsterdam and want to enjoy the Pokémon Adventure too. No judgment here!

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