Met's Extensive Picasso Collection on Display This Summer
Too much Picasso is never enough. From April 27 to August 1 the Metropolitan Museum of Art will exhibit its complete holdings of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics, as well as 200 works on paper (drawings, prints and linoleum cuts).
Staging a Picasso show is a grand, safe and expensive tradition in the art museum world, infallibly attracting attention. Expense, however, is not a factor in the case of the Met, as the museum did not have to request Picassos from other art institutions or donors. All pieces come exclusively from its own collection. One could argue it is merely recycling already seen work.
Although extensive, the exhibition is no retrospective. You could even qualify it as “introspective.” In preparation for this exhibition, researchers looked into the Picasso paintings and examined them by use of special X-ray, to reveal the canvases’ hidden past. A crouched nude and a puppy are hidden in the famous “Blind Man’s Meal” (1903) and more than three compositions underlie the 1906 painting “La Coiffure”. In the case of “The Actor” (1904), which just underwent renovations after a woman fell on it last January, an entire landscape was discovered on the painting’s reverse side.
This exploration of secrets gives new life to a somewhat overexposed artist. The exhibition includes works that have rarely, if ever, been displayed in museums, such as the painting “La Douleur”(1902-1903), which shows the artist leaning like Goya’s “Maja” while being fellated by a long-haired lady, or his “Suite 347,” a series of erotic etchings.
Some highlights of the exhibit include Picasso's iconic portrait of Gertrude Stein (1906), which was the first Picasso painting to be acquired by the Met, and his Harlequin portraits from the beginning of his blue period, “Seated Harlequin” (1901), and “At the Lapin Agile” (1905).
These earlier figure paintings prevail in the exhibition, giving a strange rhythm and organization to the visit. At first the show is assembled chronologically: a room for the Blue period, a room for the Rose period, another for Cubism and so on. Then it shifts to a room per medium: a room for drawing, another for etching. It is not clear why the Met changes its organization in mid-visit. The exhibition is amusing as the visitor takes on a detective role resolving each painting’s mystery. But the lack of cohesion and the value sense of deja-vu could disappoint.