Thursday, August 13, 2009

Picasso Miró Calder: What, Why, and How?

SDMA's newest exhibition—Picasso Miró Calder—opens this weekend. Here’s the inside story, from John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the Museum, who is responsible for the show…

What? A three-room exhibition, with a room devoted to the work of each artist, and with a few key objects by their Parisian contemporaries thrown in. We’ve set out a broad range of works including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and ceramics. A few things will be familiar, but most will be new to our audience, either because they are recent gifts (including a major Picasso painting, Seated Woman, a promised gift which you'll have to come see in person!), loans from private collections, or works on paper that do not stay on view because they’re so sensitive to light.

In short, the exhibition offers the great opportunity to see a big group of works by these major artists. When the show closes in December, most will go back into dark storage or back to their owners.

Why? The idea started when we signed on to get the Calder Jewelry exhibition. The jewelry is fascinating, and the show is great on its own, but we also thought that many people would wonder how it connected up with Calder’s better known work such as the large Spinal Column sculpture that we’ve just reinstalled on the front steps, or the Beastly Beestinger mobile that is in the new exhibition. So we started with the idea of a complementary Calder exhibition to put the jewelry in context. We then expanded the idea to include Miró, partly because the Calder, Miró exhibition held at The Phillips Collection a few years back was so enlightening. Then, right around the time that planning began, we received a few major gifts: a Miró painting, a late Picasso drawing, and the Picasso painting mentioned above. Given the overlapping stories of Picasso, Miró, and Calder in Paris in the first half of the 20th century, it seemed natural to expand the show to include all three.

How? There is a lot in the show, roughly 40 works by the three artists and a few by their contemporaries, but this is still merely a selection from our broader holdings. We began by picking the most important works from our permanent collection and then by talking to some of our trustees and supporters, who offered a few key loans. The selection then evolved so that the show would tell some stories. Picasso, for example, returned throughout his career to the theme of the artist and his models/muses/lovers (the most important women in his life tended to be all three). The Seated Woman, for example, is a portrait of Françoise Gilot, who had given birth to Paloma Picasso only a few months earlier. Building on this, I was inclined to include a few extra prints that developed that artist-muse theme, which is also the subject of one of our Picasso drawings; there is also a self-portrait drawing by Gilot hanging nearby. This, however, is just one of several overlapping narratives. Rather than give everything away here, though, I’ll leave the works to tell their own stories. Come visit.

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