German museum grows, displays ‘living’ van Gogh ear


An artist has created a partly living replica of Vincent van Gogh’s famously severed ear, a German museum said.

Diemut Strebe, who is known for working with biological material, collaborated with scientists to reconstruct the painter’s ear using 3-D printers and authentic living material from a relative of van Gogh’s.

“The ear is grown from tissue-engineered cartilage using computer imaging technology, and is identical in shape to van Gogh’s ear,” Dominika Szope, spokeswoman for the ZKM Center for Art and Media in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, said Wednesday.

The team used cartilage cells donated by Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of van Gogh’s brother, Theo. The ear on display is made of live cells as well as engineered components, Szope said, creating a “living art piece.” It is entitled “Sugababe.”

Visitors can speak to the ear using a microphone and the sound, once it has passed through the nutrient solution in which the ear is stored, is broadcast in the installation space. The exhibition will continue in Karlsruhe until July 6, before moving to New York in early 2015.

One of the most popular artists of all time, van Gogh suffered prolonged bouts of mental illness and depression. He notoriously sliced off part of his ear, and only sold one painting before his death in July 1890 at the age of 37.

Lieuwe van Gogh, who shares the painter’s Y chromosome and around one-sixteenth of his genome, posted a picture of himself next to the museum replica on his Facebook account with the caption: “Lend me an ear.”