N.Y. museum honors its Picasso trove in new exhibit
By Basil Katz, Reuters
April 21, 2010, 10:53 am TWN
NEW YORK -- By staging a large retrospective of his works, a new exhibition will test the golden rule of art lovers and museum goers: Pablo Picasso never gets old.
"Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)," which opens on April 27, aims to reveal hidden details about his works.
The show will present 300 of the prolific Spanish artist's paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics. Organized chronologically, it is an overview of Picasso's entire career, from the harlequins of his Blue and Rose periods, to later Cubist paintings and colorful linoleum cuts.
"Why Picasso, why now?" asked the show's curator and Picasso expert Gary Tinterow at a preview of the exhibit.
Partly, he said, it was to showcase the museum's collection, composed mostly of works given by donors over the years.
But researchers quintupled their efforts and exposed the works to an almost unprecedented level of scrutiny, he added.
Several paintings revealed hidden and until now unknown pasts by use of infrared reflectography and radiography which allow researchers to peel back the layers of a canvas' history.
The 1906 painting "La Coiffure" revealed three full, completed paintings beneath the current image of a woman staring into a hand mirror while her hair is braided.
Analyzing "The Blind Man's Meal," a key canvas from Picasso's Blue Period, researchers found a painting that was thought missing.
"It's just fascinating that an artist that has been so studied, mined so extensively, nevertheless can continue to bring forth new revelations," Tinterow said.
Each of the show's 34 paintings was cleaned and reframed according to Picasso's own wishes, said Tinterow, giving the show a unique coherence.
'A Measure of Immortality'
While staging a Picasso show is usually considered a museum safe bet, bringing in easy acclaim and hordes of visitors, curators from The Met went to great lengths to distinguish this show from others.
"It's really remarkable that we can, out of our own collections, draw from holdings some 500 works of Picasso to show the full range of his career," The Met's director Thomas Campbell said.
He added that the museum provides a special forum to show Picasso because of the resonance his works have with the museum's permanent collection of classical art.
The Met, Campbell said, was a museum for timeless works, not just modern art. He cited the words of expatriate writer Gertrude Stein, who was a friend of Picasso and donated a linchpin painting. She said the museum lends to art "a measure of immortality."
And in a quick jab to critics who might call the show a "cynical move that we would exploit our own collections in order to have a cheap exhibition," Tinterow pointed to the depth of new research this show demanded.
Picasso, Tinterow said, was a "subject here in house that could be profitably exploited — exploited, that is, for scholarly reasons."