Vincent Polakovic tells his fascinating mystery story (on the TV talk show) about the roots of the most romatic modern art museums in Europe –the Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum– located less than 20 km south of Bratislava.
It was founded by the Dutch collector and patron of the arts Gerard Meulensteen and the Slovak gallerist Vincent Polakovic. Since its opening in 2000, the museum has arranged numerous exhibitions of leading figures of European and world art scene. The museum has attracted thousands of visitors as well as royal visits and leading political, social and above all cultural figures.
A magnificent view of Bratislava and the mighty Danube offer unforgettable experiences at sunset.
The Mystic Story of Vincent Polakovic
I was 10 years old,” begins Polakovic, “I saw a neighbour’s picture of Van Gogh, and I was taken.”
His fascination with Van Gogh never waned, however. Free to travel to the West after the 1989 Velvet Revolution, he made a pilgrimage to Van Gogh’s grave in 1990 on the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death. He had an experience there that would change his life forever.
The scene on the night of the anniversary, July 29, 1990, at the French cemetery was extraordinary. Hundreds of people were camped out, keeping candlelight vigils and walking among the graves. With nowhere to sleep, Polakovic went wandering, and at two in the morning, on the roof of a small house, came upon what he says was the spirit of Van Gogh.
“He was all alone, rocking back and forth. I went to him, took him into my arms, and we spoke,” says Polakovic. “I promised him two things – that I would reveal to the world how he really died, and that I would build the art centre that he had never finished.”
Focused on the latter promise, Polakovic went back to Slovakia and began raising funds for an art centre modelled after a yellow house in which Van Gogh once lived. Three years later, Zlty dom (yellow house) opened in the eastern Slovak city of Poprad.
Relatively secluded in one of the country’s poorer regions, the project had financial difficulties from the outset, and despite enthusiasm within the country’s art community, soon slid towards bankruptcy. Mentally and spiritually exhausted, and virtually penniless, Polakovic made a trip to the Netherlands in 1994 hoping to again speak with Van Gogh.
In the town of Nuenen, where the Dutch painter spent most of his life, Polakovic found a bronze Van Gogh statue, grasped its hand, and had another incredible encounter.
“His hand became warm, absolutely like a normal human hand. I said, ‘Vincent, I kept my promise of building the yellow house, but I don’t know if I can go on any longer.'”
A passer-by watching the encounter asked Polakovic where he was from and why he had come. At the end of their conversation, he gave Polakovic the number of someone who he said might be able to help. The following day, Polakovic met Dutch businessman and art collector Gerhard Meulensteen.
“There was something between Vincent and me immediately,” recalls Meulensteen. “We didn’t speak the same languages. But we spoke with our eyes and feelings. Vincent is very special, emotional and magnetic. When I saw how determined he was with this project for Vincent Van Gogh, I knew I had to help him.”