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Picasso in the Round

Posted on August 06, 2015

Picasso Sculpture MOMAA new exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) digs deep into an overlooked part of a well-known artist’s oeuvre. Picasso Sculpture, opening September 14, displays the largest assemblage of Pablo Picasso’s three-dimensional works in the U.S. in more than 50 years. The 150 pieces, acquired through loans from private and public collections including Musée Picasso in Paris, spans his entire career, taking up the museum’s entire fourth floor.

“We are actually installing it not in our Special Exhibition galleries, but in our Collection galleries,” says Ann Temkin, the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture for MoMA. The reason? “Twice as much space. We wanted people to be able to walk around the sculptures, so they could really be seen in the round.”

In part, MoMA is going big because of the special importance this show holds for the institution. It was MoMA that held the first (and, until now, last) such retrospective in the U.S., with 1967’s The Sculpture of Picasso. At the time, it was a revelation to many visitors that the works existed at all, as the artist had kept his sculpting largely private during his lifetime, surrounding himself with the pieces in his home.

“Now, it’s been 50 years, and there has been a whole lot of scholarship, a whole lot of analysis of how these fit into his work and arc of his career,” says Temkin.

Anne Umland, the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture for MoMA, adds that viewing the collection in 2015 makes one appreciate how “ahead of his time” Picasso was in his choice of materials and artistic approach.

The exhibit is organized into chronological chapters. Unlike his prolific painting, Picasso’s sculptural career can be organized into very distinct periods, with gaps in between. For example, his interest in African and Oceanic art after visiting the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro, as he begins to make sculptures from scraps of wood, “working his way into a new way of thinking sculpturally that was outside the classic traditions,” as Umland puts it.

Picasso never formally trained in sculpture, and his less prescribed approach to the craft makes the works in some ways more accessible than his paintings.

“It’s very graspable,” says Umland, adding that a visitor can “imagine herself making one” of the sculptures—not a sentiment felt by many viewers of Guernica.

Read the story at Rhapsody.

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