Amsterdam museums mark Van Gogh's 150th

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AMSTERDAM -- This March marks the 150th birthday of Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, and two museums here will commemorate the anniversary with three landmark art exhibitions.

The Netherlands and Amsterdam tourism boards and the museums are working with tour operators and hotels to incorporate visits to the art shows in commissionable vacation packages, officials said.

Triple tribute

Van Gogh's namesake institution, the Van Gogh Museum, is home to two consecutive exhibitions this year.

The first, "Vincent's Choice: The Musee Imaginaire of Van Gogh," will run Feb. 14 through June 15 in exhibition space by architect Thierry Despont, designer of the J. Paul Getty Museum's galleries in Los Angeles.

In honor of the artist's actual birth date, admission to the show will be free March 30; in addition, throughout 2003 visitors are entitled to free admission if they attend either exhibition on their own birthdays.

Some 200 works will illustrate Van Gogh's favorite paintings by other artists, including Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Seurat.

Certain works will be juxtaposed against the later paintings by Van Gogh that they clearly influenced -- for instance, "The blue coffeepot" by Emile Bernard will be shown alongside Van Gogh's later "Still life with coffeepot."

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam celebrates its namesake's 150th birthday with two exhibitions this year. Local hotels and tour operators are working on crafting related tour packages. A similar tack was taken by the museum with last year's blockbuster "Van Gogh & Gauguin" show, which attracted a record 739,117 visitors with its illustration of the stormy artistic partnership forged by the master painters.

" 'Van Gogh & Gauguin' included elements that come back in 'Vincent's Choice,' " said Andreas Bluhm, head of exhibitions and display at the Van Gogh Museum. "But [the new show] broadens and deepens Van Gogh's relationship with the art of others."

The second show at the Van Gogh Museum, "Gogh Modern: Vincent Van Gogh and Contemporary Art," to run June 27 through Oct. 12, takes the opposite approach, grouping modern artists who were influenced by Van Gogh.

Both exhibitions are unprecedented in Europe in terms of size, scope, approach and significance, said Bluhm.

Appropriately, security at the museum will be upgraded, he added, though public access should not be affected.

Security concerns were heightened after two important Van Gogh works were stolen from the museum's main exhibition hall in December by burglars who broke in through a roof window, foiling the facility's security systems.

The third area exhibition, "Vincent and Helene," will open at the Kroller-Muller Museum, located in the town of Otterlo outside Amsterdam, from Feb. 14 through Oct. 12.

This show will explore the passion of Helene Kroller-Muller, the museum's founder, for the works of Van Gogh, according to museum officials.

The nearly 300 Van Gogh works owned by Kroller-Muller, including 87 paintings, will be hung in the order in which they were acquired.

Starry overnights

The Netherlands Board of Tourism is promoting the land-only Vincent's Birthday Package from Lindbergh Travel and Tours of Amsterdam, priced at about $260 per person, from Feb. 14 through Oct. 12.

Rates for the noncommissionable product include three nights at a three-star hotel, daily breakfast, admission to either anniversary exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum, transport and admission to "Vincent and Helene" at the Kroller-Muller and an Amsterdam city tour with a canal cruise.

Meanwhile, the Hilton Amsterdam Hotel is offering an overnight package -- including breakfast, taxes and tickets to a Van Gogh Museum exhibition -- through Dec. 31.

Prices are about $99 per person, double, through Feb. 28 and from July 1 until the end of the year. There is a $78 single supplement.

From March through June, the package is available Mondays through Fridays at about $117 per person, double -- with a $96 single supplement.

The Hotel Okura Amsterdam presents a Van Gogh menu at its Le Camelia Brasserie restaurant through Feb. 28, with two-course lunches and dinners priced at about $28 per person and three courses at $35.

Meals will be prepared in the style of Van Gogh's favorite restaurant in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. For reservations, call Le Camelia Brasserie at (011) 31-20 678-7450.

To book the Amsterdam Hilton, call (800) 445-8667; for more information, visit www.hilton.com on line.

For more information on Lindbergh Travel and Tours, call (011) 31-20 622-2766, fax (011) 31-20 622-2769, send an e-mail to [email protected] or visit www.lindbergh.nl.

To contact the Netherlands Board of Tourism, call (888) 2-HOLLAND or visit www.goholland.com.

Marketing campaign to tout 'Cool Capitals'

By Kenneth Kiesnoski

NEW YORK -- Dutch tourism officials are readying a new consumer-oriented marketing drive to promote avant-garde-themed stays in Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna to "hip, trend-setting" U.S. vacationers this spring.

Although the "Cool Capitals" promotion effort will largely target consumers directly -- with print advertisements in Travel & Leisure magazine, interactive "salons" in New York and Los Angeles and a Web site at www.coolcapitals.com -- tour operator Europe Express and air carrier Austrian Airlines have been tapped to fashion commissionable air-and-land packages.

According to Joan Dunne, vice president at Bothell, Wash.-based Europe Express, new packages that will combine the company's existing three-night stays to the cities with special air fare and themed add-ons should be ready later this month.

"Once the packages are built, we'll blast-fax them out to the agents," Dunne said, adding that Feb. 15 is a likely launch date; commission will start at a standard 10%.

Meanwhile, agents can book the company's Amsterdam Stopover deal, priced from $229 per person.

Likewise, Austrian Airlines is developing commissionable deals for the summer that should be bookable by March, said Dan Gaico, director of marketing for the Americas.

The campaign will stress that Amsterdam, Berlin and Vienna boast cutting-edge cultural, dining and retail attractions, said Conrad van Tiggelen, director, North America, for the Netherlands Board of Tourism.

"Cool Capitals moves away from traditional appeals, such as tulips in Holland," he added.

For details, contact the Netherlands Board of Tourism at (888) 2-HOLLAND or at www.goholland.com; Europe Express at (800) 927-3876 or at www.europeexpress.com; or the Austrian Airlines Vacations Center at (800) 790-4682 or at www.austrianair.com/greatdeals/vacation_packages.html.

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