At least four members of staff have been let go from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for alleged misconduct during the institution’s wildly popular Pokémon exhibition, which closed on 7 January.
According to the Dutch newspaper Het Parool, staff including security guards and front of house employees allegedly provided potential visitors with insider information on how to get limited tickets to the show, which featured six small paintings featuring Pokémon characters inspired by Van Gogh. Another employee allegedly embezzled a box of Pokémon cards that had been produced for the exhibition. One member of staff to have been let go worked at the museum for 25 years.
The show was so popular that within an hour of it opening last September, security guards reported an unusually long queue of people. “It’s even busier than the Vermeer,” one told the Guardian newspaper. Ticket touts even set up shop outside the museum.
Part of the pull was the promise of a free limited edition Pokémon card, which was handed out to visitors who completed a treasure hunt-style questionnaire that involved answering questions such as how many sunflowers were in Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings.
But the ensuing frenzy, and a booming resale market for the card, caused the museum to stop handing them out. The card is currently available on eBay for £100. “The Van Gogh Museum and the Pokémon Company International take the safety of visitors and employees very seriously,” the museum announced in mid-October. “As a result of recent incidents where a small group of individuals have created an undesirable situation, we have taken the difficult decision to no longer make the special Pikachu X Van Gogh Museum promotional cards available in the museum.”
According to Het Parool, the members of staff involved in the alleged misconduct were initially suspended and have now been let go. The Van Gogh museum declined to comment, though a spokesman told the Dutch newspaper: “We emphasise that we view this as an exceptional incident.”