This Season’s Edgy Art Ticket… Picasso!


On name recognition alone* — not to mention a prolific career spanning roughly seven decades — Pablo Picasso is arguably the most famous artist throughout history. He is estimated to have produced a staggering 50,000+ artworks, including the auction record-breaking Boy With a Pipe, which once sold for $104 million at Sotheby’s. Picasso has two stand-alone museums dedicated to his legacy (one in Paris, one in his birthplace of Málaga, Spain) and during his lifetime collaborated with artists and thinkers on the cutting edge of literature, philosophy, dance, painting, theater, and poetry. There’s no denying that Picasso’s star still burns bright, and rightfully so, but what’s with the three — count ’em, three! — major museum exhibitions hitting the East Coast this spring? And how are those aforementioned institutions saving a buck by featuring the artist?

*Fun fact: His full name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. Chew on that!

Pablo Picasso, “Gertrude Stein” (1905-6), part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent collection and on view from April 27 through August 1.

Candace Jackson reports for the Wall Street Journal on the triumvirate of Picasso shows concurrent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The three institutions are relying on works from their permanent collections to flesh out a year of programming amid continued budget struggles in the non-profit sector, and a trove of works by the 20th century’s master of painting is an obvious and effective way to save on overhead and ensure blockbuster-style attendance.

Jackson writes:

Museums across the country are looking for ways to work with less, with many laying off staff and limiting opening hours to cut costs. The Met saw a 22% drop in its endowment for the fiscal year ended June 30, although the museum says the upcoming year-end statement is expected to show improvement.

Pablo Picasso, “Maar in an Armchair” (1939), courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The everlastingly popular artist will be showcased for an adoring public at the Met, which will display some 300-odd works by Picasso from its permanent collection of 493 (including the famous portrait of Gertrude Stein pictured above). Fellow New York art outpost the Museum of Modern Art has a supplementary exhibition on view now that comprises 100 Picasso prints, a top of the iceberg considered MoMA owns 1,100 of the artist’s 2,400 known prints. Philly is featuring 200 Picassos, like the painting “Three Musicians” pictured below, alongside works by his contemporaries, nearly all owned by the museum. According to the WSJ, “none of these exhibits will make stops at other museums,” which means significantly reduced insurance premiums, shipping charges, and preparation fees for the institutions.

Pablo Picasso, “Three Musicians” (1921) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art — not to be confused with the painting with the same title owned by MoMA.

Pablo Picasso, “Mandolin, Fruit Bowl and Plaster Arm” (1925), courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

What do you think: will you be ante up to see old favorites like Picasso at a museum this summer? Or would you rather see an unprecedented exhibition like the Marina Abramovic retrospective (currently on view at MoMA)?

Image at top: Picasso’s “Woman in a Hat with Pompoms and a Printed Blouse” (1962) is part of the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.