A visitor at the Vermeer exhibition at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (photo by Henk Wildschut/Rijksmuseum)

It was clear from the beginning that the Johannes Vermeer retrospective at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was going to be a smash hit. And indeed, the show sold out within days of its opening on February 10. This has sparked a hot resale market on eBay, where tickets for the show are being sold for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. As tickets remain unavailable many weeks after the show opened, mark-ups continue to spiral out of control.

Simply titled Vermeer, it’s the largest-ever exhibition of the Dutch Golden Age master, bringing together 28 of his 37 known paintings through loans from various institutions. The Rijksmuseum marketed the show as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to see so many works by the artist in one location.  

That marketing strategy has certainly worked. Just yesterday, March 23, a pair of e-tickets for the exhibition sold on eBay for a staggering $2,724 after 44 bids, with seven bidders hiking up the price from the relatively reasonable opening bid of $100. The second most expensive pair of tickets sold for £1,270 (~$1,550). The third pair went for 1,022 (~$1,100). Those were mostly tickets for April and May. Gone are the days when you could buy tickets to the show for just around $300 — or $24, the museum’s standard admission fee for an adult over 18.

A pair of tickets to the Vermeer show at Rijksmuseum sells for $2,724 on eBay. (screenshot Hakim Bishara/Hyperallergic)
Another pair of tickets sold for $1,550. (screenshot Hakim Bishara/Hyperallergic)

When asked whether the museum was aware of the wild speculation online, a spokesperson for the Rijksmuseum told Hyperallergic: “Tickets for Rijksmuseum’s Vermeer exhibition can only be purchased through Rijksmuseum’s website and authorized partners such as Get Your Guide and Priotickets. The Rijksmuseum does not endorse re-selling of tickets and cannot guarantee the validity of tickets purchased outside of official channels.” Hyperallergic could not independently verify the authenticity of the tickets sold on eBay and has reached out to the online marketplace for comment.

In a February statement, the museum said it had limited the number of tickets “to ensure that the public can have a pleasant visit to the exhibition.”

“We are working hard to ensure more people have the opportunity to see the exhibition,” the statement said.

Art critic and Hyperallergic contributor David Carrier, who returned from Amsterdam this week, was fortunate to get tickets for the show.

“It was quite the event,” he said. “The show was crowded but with patience, all the works could be viewed. That’s why I find this speculation dismaying.”

Carrier was able to see the show three times after he was tipped off that he could get unlimited admission any time of the year if he bought a “friends of the Rijksmuseum” pass for 50 (~$54) or 75 (~$80) for two people. This option, however, is no longer available, according to the museum’s website.

“At the airport, I told border security I was visiting Amsterdam to see the Vermeer show, and the staffer said: But it’s already sold out,” Carrier recounted.

“It’s hard to explain the mystique of Vermeer, but one thing is for sure: no other Golden-Age painter could produce such an audience, not even Rembrandt,” Carrier said.

About $1,100 for tickets to the Vermeer show (screenshot Hakim Bishara/Hyperallergic)

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...