Inspiration: From Zero to Hero heART

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.”

Get Inspired: Why, How?

Newton sits under the apple tree. An apple falls and hits him on the head. He suddenly becomes blissed and full of energy as an idea for the theory of gravity comes to him and he writes it down in his notebook.

Inspiration is that feelings which make you chase your dreams. It is being in a state of mind where everything is possible, everything is clear.


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What Artists Reveal About Inspiration?

For fear of making us sound like the Waltons, my band [Elbow] are a huge source of inspiration for me. They’re my peers, my family; when they come up with something impressive, it inspires me to come up with something equally impressive.” – Guy Garvey, musician

Go for a walk Every morning I go to Hampstead Heath [in north London], and I often also go for a wander in the middle of the day to think through a character or situation. I listen to music as I go. Again, it’s about occupying one part of your brain, so that the other part is clear to be creative.” – Polly Stenham, playwright

I seek inspiration in film, theatre, music, art – and in watching other ballet companies, other dancers, and other types of dance. I never feel jealous of another good dancer: I always feel there is so much to learn from them.” – Tamara Rojo, ballet dancer

The little images that I get from sitting alone in my apartment – the way the light is falling through the window; the man I just saw walk by on the other side of the street – find their way into snatches of lyrics. I write in short spurts – for five, 10, 15 minutes – then I pace around the room, or go and get a snack.” – Martha Wainwright, singer-songwriter

Try to ignore the noise around you: the chatter, the parties, the reviews, the envy, the shame.” – Anthony Neilson, playwright and director

Make sure you are asking a question that is addressed both to the world around you and the world within you. It’s the only way to keep going when the doubt sets in.” – Rupert Goold, director

It’s very important for inspiration to go elsewhere: to move away from the city into pastoral settings, and to make space for meditation. I also enjoy talking to people who aren’t involved in art. For my recent work, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people involved in digital technologies. It’s useful to get perspective on what you do by talking to all sorts of different people.” – Isaac Julien, artist

Surround yourself with people who don’t mind you being a bit absent and a bit flakey.” – Lucy Prebble, playwright

The most inspiring thing is to see human ingenuity in action – it is all around us.” – Sunand Prasad, architect

Inspiration Formal Definitions 

English Collins Dictionary

  1. Stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity
  2. The state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused
  3. Someone or something that causes this state
  4. An idea or action resulting from such a state
  5. (Life Sciences and Allied Applications / Physiology) the act or process of inhaling; breathing in

Oxford Dictionary

  1. The process that takes place when somebody sees or hears something that causes them to have exciting new ideas or makes them want to create something, especially in art, music or literature
  2. A person or thing that is the reason why somebody creates or does something
  3. A person or thing that makes you want to be better, more successful, etc
  4. A sudden good idea