Why did the Beyeler Foundation recruit Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves to open its new exhibition of major works by the artist Paul Gauguin? (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
No artist is more indelibly tied to the South Pacific, and to Tahiti in particular, than the 19th-century French painter. Better known as an action movie star, Reeves is also an art lover. He was asked to launch the exhibition because of his ties to Polynesia. His father is a Hawaiian-born American.
Basel's Beyeler Foundation is displaying about 50 works by the French post-impressionist, among them paintings produced on Tahiti, where Gauguin moved in 1891. He chose to live with natives far outside the capital, Papeete, where there were many European settlers. His Tahitian paintings, most of them of exotic, raven-haired Tahitian women, are celebrated for their bold use of colour and symbolism.
When Gauguin sailed to the tropics, he said he was escaping European civilisation and "everything that is artificial and conventional".
Reeves explained in an interview with Swiss public television, SRF, that this was why he could relate to Gauguin. He says he admires the way in which Gauguin bucked the trend and would not let himself be defined by others.