Australian artist Matt Butterworth feared a long day when he dressed up as Vincent van Gogh, travelled to Melbourne’s finest gallery, and posted a sign outside.
“FREE. TAKE A SELFIE WITH VAN GOGH. (Look-alike),” it read.
It was 10:00, and Butterworth could see few people at the National Gallery of Victoria, which is holding Australia’s largest-ever exhibition of the Dutch painter’s works.
But after one person came forward, his offer “went crazy”.
“I had tiers of people lining up to take a selfie with me. I was getting hugs from random strangers,” he said.
Butterworth posed for 147 selfies in just over 90 minutes, at which time his phone battery went dead. Participants ranged from children to the elderly.
He said he got the idea after being constantly told that he resembled the 19th Century post-impressionist, who famously cut off his own ear while enduring mental illness before dying in an apparent suicide aged 37.
“I’d underestimated the love that people have for van Gogh,” Butterworth told the BBC. “I know he’s clearly popular, but there’s something about his tragic story that people really connect with.”
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The idea was partly frivolous – “I just happened to look like van Gogh” – but it also carried a message.
“We live in the age of selfie and celebrity, and van Gogh is now more a celebrity than he is painter, so I thought it was a perfect combination of those concepts,” he said.
“I just thought I’ll just turn up and offer everyone the chance to take a selfie.”
The Australian artist is not the first to enjoy time as a van Gogh lookalike.
Last year, an actor from Dorset, UK, won a global competition called “I am Vincent” to find the “world’s most accurate” likeness.
Daniel Baker was chosen by renowned Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland out of 1,250 entries from 37 countries.