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Picasso season wraps up in New York -- and starts up in San Francisco

May 26, 2011 |  9:15 am

Picassoboyleadinghorse You don't have to leave the U.S. to see some of Picasso's greatest paintings, thanks to choice holdings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and MoMA in New York -- especially MoMA. But this year it's easier than ever to see a range of works by the prolific artist on either coast.

After traveling to the Seattle Art Museum and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso" reaches its final U.S. venue next month, opening at the De Young Museum in San Francisco on June 11. The survey spans eight decades and many media, including paintings and works on paper.

French art critics have faulted the Picasso museum in Paris, which is closed for a $60-million renovation, for sending works abroad in order to raise construction funds. California fans might just be glad to see about 150 works closer to home, despite a hefty $25 admission price for adults.

Meanwhile, across town, SFMOMA has borrowed dozens of Picasso paintings and works on paper from private collections as well as museums for a show over a decade in the making: "The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde." MoMA alone loaned several works, including the  double portrait "Boy Leading a Horse," shown above, from the artist's so-called rose period.

Mtinsf The West Coast shows come on the heels of two focused Picasso exhibitions in New York. "Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914," at MoMA through June 6, is the kind of crucible of modern-art show that can turn students into scholars. Looking at guitar-themed works in which the artist began using newspaper, wallpaper, sheet metal and other non-artistic materials in his art, the show documents the birth of Picasso's collage/assemblage aesthetic.

Also treating a single subject in great depth, "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L'Amour Fou," at Gagosian's West 21st Street location in Chelsea through June 25, explores the artist's relationship with his much-younger and sunnier mistress, Marie-Thérèse. Once you get to know her profile, with her strong (often phallic) nose, you can see her image figuring into different styles of his work, from Surrealist-style paintings of bathers to his own brand of neoclassical sculpture. (She also shows up in the De Young show, as in the 1932 portrait at left).

Curated by Picasso biographer John Richardson and the artist's granddaughter, Diana Widmaier Picasso, the Gagosian exhibition is one of the gallery's occasional museum-style "non-selling" shows. But it is hard not to picture a price tag or two floating above Marie-Thérèse's pretty head, since she went from being Picasso's most valued mistress to his most valuable, with the $106.5-million sale of "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" that broke auction records last year.


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Pablo Picasso, from top to bottom: Boy Leading a Horse, 1905–6; oil on canvas; from The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the William S. Paley Collection, 1964; © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, N.Y. La Lecture (Reading); 1932; oil on canvas, from Musée National Picasso, Paris, © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS)