The Broad Museum in Los Angeles: Reviews of the Debut Show and the Architecture – Updated

 

 

 

 

 

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NY Observer / Gallerist

The Soul of the New Broad Museum
The welcome for a new L.A. arts institution has been dimmed by personality and politics
By Alexandra Peers | 09/24/15 9:00am

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In a city all about cars, it was striking that the streets were closed around Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles last weekend. It was all for the opening of America’s newest major art museum, the Broad Museum. Bill Clinton, who was the keynote speaker at the opening party, might’ve had something to do with the street closures, or perhaps his Secret Service detail did. But the bottom line is that a slice of one of the nation’s largest cities was cleared to make it easier for guests to cross the street from a museum to a glamorous dinner held under giant globes of golden light and scored by an orchestra of musicians in white tuxedos.

At that dinner, one of two held over two nights to handle the hundreds on the guest list, from Reese Witherspoon to Chrissie Hynde to Takashi Murakami, Bill Clinton gave museum founder and art collector Eli Broad a hearty hug and raved about his philanthropy. The former president dubbed the museum project “phenomenal,” and talked about knowing the Broads, Eli and wife Edythe, for 30 years. And he joked—to raucous laughter from a crowd of some of the more famous or well-connected people in the country—that both men had married up.

And there you have it: Much of the discussion and coverage, prior and post-September 20 opening of the new West Coast Contemporary arts institution, has centered around the issues of power and the influence of its founder, billionaire Eli Broad. Mr. Broad’s yellow-traffic-cone-wielding power in Los Angeles. Mr. Broad’s wallet power in the art market. Mr. Broad’s power in politics.
Eli Broad, Bill Clinton and Joanne Heyler attend The Broad Museum Opening Celebration at The Broad on September 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images)

Eli Broad, Bill Clinton and Joanne Heyler attend The Broad Museum Opening Celebration at The Broad on September 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images)

Yes, Mr. Broad, a Forbes 500-er who made his billions in the home-building and financial services industries, is indeed a powerful man. But the focus is misplaced: art always trumps. So, whatever the back story of how his $140 million eponymous museum came to be, if nothing else giving it entirely free of charge, and free of admission, to the people of Los Angeles buys him the right to have it looked at on its own merits.

Which, it turns out, are considerable.

On Grand Avenue, the Diller Scofidio and Renfro-designed white rectangle of honeycombed lattice looks like an Apple store with better products, which doesn’t sound like a compliment but is. There’s a lightness and technological modernity to it. The design is a savvy solution to the almost insurmountable problem that it is adjacent to Walt Disney Hall, a Frank Gehry masterpiece, which was always going to have it for lunch no matter what it tried to do, architecturally speaking.

Some critics have, ironically, accused the Broads of following art trends that frankly they themselves might’ve started. It’s like blaming the Pied Piper for the rats.

Inside, its lobby is a beautiful surprise: a deep slate gray with caverns and a very steep long escalator that disappears into the ceiling, or heaven—for a minute when you enter you are not sure which. In the stairwell there are rare and nifty glimpses into storage of the hundreds of works not on view, a feature unique to this art institution. Light streams in unexpected spots through a transparent webbing. In the Broad’s main third floor gallery, it has a few too many of the big white walls we’ve come to expect, and be utterly bored by, in Contemporary art museums, but perhaps that will evolve.

The museum will showcase, on a rotating basis, highlights from Eli and Edythe Broad’s over 2,000-artwork collection, virtually all of the works on display dating from the 1960s or later. These include some jaw-droppers from Joseph Beuys, Sam Francis, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein (a roomful), all the way up to recent art from Kara Walker and Neo Rauch. The Broads collect artists in depth, so there’s a real immersion here, not just a fast flip through an art history text, one of the things that really sets it apart. (That depth showcases the work of Mr. Murakami to particularly fine effect.) And there is a Jasper Johns flag that is particularly moving and beautiful.

In the Broad Museum, two must-see pieces are given their own spaces, deservedly so: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room (the Souls of Millions of Light Years Away) and The Visitors, a nine-screen video art installation by Iceland artist Ragnar Kjartansson, which features nine musicians playing a piece of music simultaneously, but scattered in various rooms of a decaying mansion.

The mega-collectors’ considerable trove had been expected to go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and there are those still smarting that it did not. Certainly that emblematic Johns flag may have belonged in a national, public collection. And curators always grouse loudly that every wealthy collector thinks he can run a museum. That cliché may be true, but it’s also sour grapes.

At least the Broad Museum’s location, next to Disney Hall and across from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the city’s existing Museum of Contemporary Art (currently showing a fine Matthew Barney film and sculpture exhibition, River of Fundament) creates something of a needed critical mass of culture in the very spread-out city.
A still from Ragnar Kjartansson’s film The Visitors. (Photo: © Ragnar Kjartansson/Courtesy The Broad Museum)

A still from Ragnar Kjartansson’s film The Visitors. (Photo: © Ragnar Kjartansson/Courtesy The Broad Museum)

Some of the criticism of the museum has centered on the fact that it is a snapshot of much of the art market right now, that it codifies, even anoints, a list of exactly who you would have expected to see. That, for a personal museum, it isn’t personal or idiosyncratic enough. It’s true: You will find these artists in a lot of collections and, more to the point, in a lot of auction catalogs. But that ironically accuses the Broads of following trends that frankly they themselves might’ve started. It’s like blaming the Pied Piper for the rats.

Consider Jeff Koons. They bought his work really early, in-depth and courageously, given the amount of eye rolling their fanaticism was met with. Love him or hate him, Mr. Koons is in those art history books now. And there’s a moment in the new Broad where you can look from an iconic 1970s felt suit by Joseph Beuys to see Mr. Koons’ famous stainless steel bunny and suddenly see each of them in new ways.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Broad.

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THE NEW YORKER
The Art World September 28, 2015 Issue
Going Downtown
Eli Broad opens his own museum in Los Angeles.
By Peter Schjeldahl

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Works by Jeff Koons and Christopher Wool on the third floor, where the lighting—natural and artificial—adjusts automatically. Credit Courtesy Bruce Damonte / The Broad / Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Broad, it’s called: a snazzy new museum of excellent contemporary art, which just opened in downtown Los Angeles, right across the street from the Museum of Contemporary Art. If that sounds redundant, consider that, a few miles away, on Wilshire Boulevard, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art also features a contemporary collection, as does, a bit farther west, the Hammer Museum. Besides being no more than fifty years old, all these institutions—along with the wondrous Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, which stands next door to the Broad—have in common histories of the patronage and the aggressive, sometimes resented, influence of the billionaire philanthropist and collector Eli Broad.

Few individuals whose surnames aren’t Medici have had such dramatic effect on the art culture of an important city. The new museum crowns a particular passion of Broad’s: to create a cultural center for Los Angeles along a stretch of Grand Avenue, which also boasts the Music Center—home to the Disney hall and three other venues—and the High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. The words “Los Angeles” and “center” consort oddly, especially since the city’s ever more apocalyptic traffic further dulls the local citizens’ never ardent yen to venture out of their usual ways. Nor does Grand Avenue feel like anybody’s idea of an agora. There are busy Latino and Asian neighborhoods nearby, but, after hours, you don’t encounter many people in the spottily gentrified downtown area (and a considerable number of those you do are homeless). At any time on the avenue, even cars are relatively sparse. Yet the dream of culture-craving throngs persists. The Broad offers free admission. Synergistically, moca has eased tense relations with its chief patron to grant free yearlong memberships to all who visit the Broad during the first two weeks. (Broad bailed out the foundering institution in 2008, but the director he selected departed under a cloud of acrimony, two years ago.)

The museum is well worth a visit now and periodic revisits later, as its exhibits cycle through a collection of some two thousand works by about two hundred artists. Around two hundred and fifty pieces are currently on display. Whomever Broad and his wife, Edythe, collect, they collect in depth. The show’s roughly chronological arrangement incorporates several rooms devoted to single artists, like pocket retrospectives. The building, by the New York firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, plays changes on a theme that the architects call “the veil and the vault”—masking what amounts to a storage facility for the collection. The façade is a slewed honeycomb of concrete modules: slitlike holes set in diagonal channels, which suggest the tidy claw marks of a very large cat. The building’s capacity to impress is muted by the material Ninth Symphony of the Gehry concert hall, but it’s pleasant enough.

You enter through a dim lobby with dark-gray, Surrealistically curved walls and ceiling. The lobby leads to shapely ground-floor galleries and offers the choice of a cylindrical glass elevator or a hundred-and-five-foot escalator—low-impact thrill rides—to the vast, columnless third floor, which is beautifully illuminated by automatically adjusted blends of natural and artificial light. The interior walls stop short of the skylight-riddled ceiling, conveying a temporary and flexible character. The vault portion of the building occupies the second floor. You catch sight of it through glass walls when you descend a hushed, snaking, umbilical-like stairwell: a cavernous space of racks and equipment, yielding glimpses of art works at rest between shows. It’s a nice touch, like a backstage pass at the opera.
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The third floor of the Broad.
Courtesy Iwan Baan / The Broad / Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Broad, now eighty-two, and Edythe arrived in L.A. in 1963, from their home town of Detroit. The son of a union organizer who came to own dime stores, Broad started a home-building firm that ascended to the Fortune 500, as did a subsequent startup in financial services. (A how-to-succeed memoir, published in 2012, shares his secret in its title, “The Art of Being Unreasonable.” His friend Michael Bloomberg wrote the introduction.) Edythe introduced him to art, hesitantly. She wanted an Andy Warhol soup-can print, but worried that her husband would be appalled by the price: a hundred dollars. (They later parted with $11.7 million for a soup-can painting.) In 1972, they bought a van Gogh drawing, but Broad tired of it and arranged a swap for a rugged early painting by Robert Rauschenberg. The couple’s taste gravitated to Pop art—they own thirty-four works by Roy Lichtenstein—and to socially conscious, left-liberal sensibilities. (“I’m not as liberal as I used to be,” Broad told me, when I spoke with him at the museum, but he remains a Democrat.) He is rare among collectors in possessing abundant terrific works by the late Leon Golub, a painter of white-mercenary criminality in developing-world locales. The museum’s inaugural show presents a large charcoal drawing, by Robert Longo, from a photograph taken last year in Ferguson, Missouri, in which police advance, at night, in a fog of tear gas.

Once committed to collecting, the Broads anchored their holdings with canonical works by Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, and Ellsworth Kelly. Twombly and Kelly aside—and excepting a more recent fondness for Albert Oehlen and Mark Grotjahn—they shied from abstraction, and skated lightly over Conceptualist art of the nineteen-seventies. In the eighties, the Broads went in big for neo-expressionist and Pictures Generation artists, notably Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cindy Sherman. (They own a hundred and twenty-four pictures by Sherman.) The German artists Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, and Thomas Struth are also strongly represented, and recent New York stars in the collection include Christopher Wool, John Currin, Glenn Ligon, and Kara Walker. But, with the prominent exceptions of Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, Charles Ray, Robert Therrien, and Lari Pittman, the Broads have braved local exasperation by not going out of their way to boost L.A. artists.

There’s not much installation art on view, but there is one gem: “The Visitors” (2012), by the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. The piece consists of nine gorgeous, hour-long video projections, placed at odd angles in a dark room, of as many musicians, sitting in separate rooms in a dilapidated mansion, and noodling with a love song. The exquisiteness of sight and sound and the pathos of the musicians’ shared loneliness brought tears to my eyes when I first saw the piece, at the Luhring Augustine Gallery, two years ago. Would that happen again, during a note-taking tour of a jam-packed museum? It did.

Broad’s favorite contemporary artist seems to be Jeff Koons, whose works he owns in profusion—from encased vacuum cleaners, floating basketballs, and a stainless-steel inflated bunny to a huge, color-tinted, stainless-steel rendering of tulips and the inevitable balloon dog. Broad came to Koons’s rescue in the nineties, at a tough time—financially and personally—for the artist, and paid a million dollars for several future works that he waited years to receive. He calls Koons’s output “bold and theatrical,” words that could well be engraved on a cornerstone of the museum; Broad adores punch. The sometimes bitterly voiced controversies that surround Koons seem to concern him not at all. It’s in Broad’s nature, when crossed or confronted, to plow forward with undeterred aplomb. He appears immune to grudges, seldom keeping for long the enemies he can’t help but make. (A history of scraps with Frank Gehry, in particular, has not obviated expressions, at least in public, of amity on both sides.) Koons’s sunny disposition and shame-free panache suit Broad, as does his work’s insouciant symbolizing of oligarchic noblesse oblige. Why would anyone gainsay immense wealth when looking at the delightful things that may be done with it? ♦

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Last night, about the same time that Marc Jacobs’s show brought a Hollywood premiere to midtown Manhattan, the Broad’s opening night gala hosted the New York art world in downtown Los Angeles. After a week that saw MOCA celebrate Matthew Barney’s “River of Fundament” and Gagosian debut new work by Urs Fischer, the city was primed to welcome its newest cultural landmark.

Upon arriving—and after first taking in Rachel Feinstein, characteristically dazzling in Gucci—it was impossible to ignore that seemingly every major New York institution was represented at the inauguration of Grand Avenue’s new crown jewel: There was Ann Temkin from MoMA, the Met’s Sheena Wagstaff, the Guggenheim’s Ari Wiseman, New Museum director Lisa Phillips, Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Whitney director Adam Weinberg, and Dia’s new director Jessica Morgan. Anyone who thought a personally funded operation couldn’t be taken seriously in the museum ecosystem has never met Eli Broad.

The Diller Scofidio + Renfro building—to my eye, a stonework riff on the National Aquatics Center from the Beijing Olympics—is now home to nearly 2,000 works from Eli and Edythe Broad’s encyclopedic collection of blue-chip contemporary art. It’s hard not to see the space as a resplendent trophy room, the proud product of decades of big-game collecting. One enters via an escalator that passes through an organic-shaped concrete tube (the best guess for its inspiration might be an elephant trunk) that opens into a white-walled warehouse that has a number of Christopher Wool word paintings and a rainbow Jeff Koons balloon. Not impressed? There are cavernous galleries devoted to artists like Takashi Murakami and (you guessed it) Koons, making each room feel like a mini retrospective, complemented last night by the artists themselves. There is a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room, which of course had a queue to enter even on opening night. Still nonplussed? There are also quieter moments at The Broad, like a gallery dedicated to Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors—a nine-channel video that felt persuasive and intimate, even in black tie.

After a tour of the museum, last night’s guests traversed Grand Avenue, which had been shut down and covered in a red carpet, for a dinner accompanied by the L.A. Philharmonic, who played the theme songs to The Godfather and Titanic, in case anyone had forgotten which coast they were on. After all, The Broad is, if nothing else, really about L.A. When it opens to the public on Sunday, The Broad will be free of charge, making it feel like a genuinely generous addition to the city. In that regard, at least, it’s the ne plus ultra.

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Unveiled: The Broad art museum by Diller Scofidio + Renfro opens

After years of hype, development and anticipation, philanthropist Eli Broad’s contemporary art museum, The Broad, is finally opening this weekend on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles. The 120,00 square foot, $140 million project, designed by New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, contains almost 2,000 of Broad’s contemporary art pieces as well as storage, conservation facilities, offices, an auditorium, and an adjacent restaurant and park.

It’s arguably the most significant new building – both culturally and architecturally – in the city since its neighbour, Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall, opened in 2003. And in many ways, the Broad is a direct response to Disney’s riotous, gleaming form. How could a new edifice try to out-Gehry Gehry? Instead it’s a very different, eroded structure, covered by a ‘veil’ of tapered, honeycomb-shaped fiberglass reinforced concrete panels. That form – and pretty much everything else about the building – wraps around its heart, known as the ‘vault’, which contains storage for the prodigious collection behind heavy concrete walls. DSR Project Director Kevin Rice calls the vault the ‘protagonist’ of the design, despite the fact that the veil gets all the attention.

On the underside of the vault is the lobby, a carved out, (relatively) dimly lit first floor space with smooth, cool walls evocative of a cave. Its organic shape was concieved to contrast with the rigid, computer-produced uniformity of the veil. ‘Throwing you off your expectations with its organic form is the perfect way to transition from the street to taking in the art itself,’ says Joanne Heyler, Director of the Broad Art Foundation. The entrance level also contains simple but spacious galleries – in most museums their 18-foot height would be formidable – for temporary exhibitions.

The third floor contains the building’s highlight: the 35,000 square foot, 23-foot-tall gallery space, glowing with rhythmic, controlled natural light from huge scooped and angled skylights, and from repeated cuts in the veil. The dinosaur-like scale of the skylights, and the lack of any columns – thanks to giant steel girders hidden above – has a mesmerizing impact, especially coming from the darker, more compressed spaces below. ‘I’m incredibly pleased with how the collection lives under the diffuse light,’ says Heyler.

Connecting varied spaces through dramatic transition is a particular specialty of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and they follow through deftly here, creating moments like the veil lifting up to welcome visitors at ground level, the tube-like escalator (and magical glass cylinder elevator) cutting through the bulk of the vault to the main galleries, and the voyeur-like peeks into the vault along the winding stairs back down. ‘We like to think of our projects as cinematic,’ said DSR principal Charles Renfro. ‘There’s a kind of narrative unfolding. There’s foreshadowing. There are glimpses ahead. Things get stitched together to form a complete experience.’ Rice adds, ‘It’s not a secret we always wanted to be filmmakers.’

The pierced solidity of the veil excels inside, where slivers of glowing light create a radiating, mysterious effect. The striking exterior is also lightened by the fact that (thanks to what Rice calls an “epic” second floor cantilever) it only touches the ground once on Grand Avenue. In the upper gallery, the necessary measure of dividing art through temporary walls breaks up what is a glorious space, perhaps minimizing its potential. The dividing walls are still a few feet from the ceiling, connecting you to the whole.

But in all this is a spectacular addition the city; a dynamic, fluid, and cohesive, if not radical, monument to L.A.’s quickly ascending place in the cultural universe. While it won’t singlehandedly mend the scorched earth urbanism of Bunker Hill, it has already infused an already white-hot downtown Los Angeles with more energy, clout, and, of course, attention.

We have explored the brand new Broad in a bespoke photoshoot in our October 2015 issue, where Liz Diller, of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is one of our two esteemed Guest Editors. In the issue you can also find Diller’s conversation with graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, where she reflects on the practice’s significant body of work and, of course, the Broad.
Read more at http://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/unveiled-the-broad-art-museum-by-diller-scofidio-renfro-opens#iCltoHAyqGHlyCEJ.99

Read more at http://www.wallpaper.com/architecture/unveiled-the-broad-art-museum-by-diller-scofidio-renfro-opens#iCltoHAyqGHlyCEJ.99

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Museums

The New Broad Museum Brings LA Lots of Blue-Chip Art and a Few Surprises

The Broad Museum (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — The wait is over. After a 15-month delay, ballooning costs, and lawsuits, the Broad Museum is finally set to open this Sunday in downtown Los Angeles. The new 120,000 square foot institution houses the postwar and contemporary art collection of Eli and Edythe Broad. For the past four decades, the couple has had an outsized influence on the cultural life of LA. Eli Broad was a founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 1979; he lent his financial support to the Hammer Museum in the 1990s; he was responsible for the Broad Contemporary Art Museum pavilion at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in the 2000s; and bailed out MOCA when it was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2008. Some of these relationships eventually soured, ending in controversy, such as his decision to simply loan his works to LACMA, not donate them, as was widely assumed. It was not a huge surprise then, when he announced in 2008 that he would be building his own museum, one where he presumably wouldn’t have to deal with competing institutional interests.

Broad Founding Director Joanne Heyler, Eli and Edythe Broad, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and architect Elizabeth Diller

Yesterday’s press event was packed with arts writers, TV crews, and radio personalities, all waiting to get our first glimpse inside of the building, finally filled with art. We’ve been watching the progress of the building — adventurously designed by architecture firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro — for the past few years, but only a few select critics had seen the collection installed. The street in front of the museum was shut down for the event. Free of cars — a rarity in LA — Grand Avenue had an odd post-apocalyptic feel. We gathered under the beaming LA sun, in front of the building’s porous white façade — the “veil” as it’s called — to hear opening remarks from philanthropists Eli and Edythe, the Broad Founding Director Joanne Heyler, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and architect Elizabeth Diller.

Garcetti hailed the Broad as further proof that LA had arrived as a major art capital on the level of — or even surpassing — New York. Diller spoke about the museum’s design, and the challenges inherent in working in the shadow of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall just across the street. “We realized that we couldn’t compete, so we opted for a relationship of contrast to our neighbor: porous and matte next to smooth and shiny. We brought our exuberant curves inside the building.” She joked about Broad’s notoriously controlling manner. “Thank for you participating so closely in the process, Eli. Maybe too closely. We were duly warned.” Then, after a series of photo ops, we were mercifully allowed out of the sun and into the cool, grey, undulating interior of the Broad’s lobby, like kids in an art candy store.

Robert Therrien, "No Title" (1993), ceramic epoxy on fiberglass, 94 x 60 x 60 in.

Until now, most of the attention has been on the building’s design. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “vault and the veil” concept puts the Broad’s entire 2,000 piece collection (minus Charles Ray’s “Firetruck”) into a 21,000 square foot storage facility in the building’s core. Around this “vault” on the second floor, there are 50,000 square feet of exhibition space on the first and third floor. Impressive engineering allows the top floor exhibition space to be virtually unencumbered by support beams or walls. Two windows in the stairwell allow visitors to peer into the vault giving the impression of transparency. There is something to be said for the thrill of being able to glimpse behind the curtain, but it’s unclear if this will translate to a greater institutional transparency or if it’s just a cool gimmick.

Window into the vault.

The museum’s exterior, the “veil,” is a honeycombed, perforated shell that wraps around the building, allowing natural light to filter into the exhibition spaces, and reinforcing a connection to the street outside. This was one of the costliest and most problematic elements of construction, and it has also been the butt of jokes likening the building to a cheese grater among other things.

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A break in the façade, dubbed the oculus, behind which sits a conference room, have inspired comparisons to the Death Star with Broad sitting in as the Emperor. It’s an intriguing design overall, but $140 million seems like a steep price tag for intrigue.

Works by Jeff Koons.

But what about the art? The Broad Collection has received some criticism for lacking a consistent vision, or for being dated, or for being too trendy. It is after all, a subjective collection reflecting the tastes of only two individuals. It would be surprising if it wasn’t uneven. After reading more than a few articles about Broad’s passion for Koons (he owns 34), I expected to see mostly flashy, blockbuster artworks — perfect for our current moment of inflation and speculation — and while there are quite a few of those, that’s not the whole story.

Works by Julie Mehretu, Christopher Wool, and Jeff Koons.

After riding the long escalator from the dim lobby, and emerging in the sun-drenched third floor galleries, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by stunning works by Mark Bradford, Julie Mehretu, and El Anatsui, giving a prominent place to works by female artists, queer artists, and artists of color. Sure, Koons and Christopher Wool held down the opposite side of the room as if to say, “Not so fast!” but it was at least a step in the right direction. The rest of the collection swayed between these two poles: the strain of glossy, slick Pop of which Koons is the current reigning champ, and more socially-oriented work, often created by groups traditionally under-represented in the art world, like women and people of color. The Broad’s director Joanne Heyler said as much when she told me: “I like the idea that a museum in the complex world that we live in is filled with many types of art. One important part is artists who still feel strongly that painful, difficult things in our social condition today need to be addressed.”

Works by Andy Warhol.

The spacious top floor is the historic basis of the collection, featuring work from the past sixty years. It is not a comprehensive overview, but tells a specific story based on the Broad’s interest. Canonical artists like Warhol, Twombly, Johns ,and Rauschenberg are well represented. Significantly, so are LA artists like Mike Kelley, John Baldessari, Charles Ray, Chris Burden, and Ed Ruscha. There are crowd pleasers like Damien Hirst, but also Kara Walker cut-outs and in-your-face Barbara Kruger works.

Kara Walker.

German artists Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys have a room, as do Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and John Ahearn — New York artists who epitomized an earlier boom time. Something almost all of the works have in common is their formidable size, which was surely a major consideration when designing the building. Smaller works would most certainly be dwarfed by the architecture.

Taskashi Murakami room.

The first floor is dedicated to works from the past fifteen years, and will hold thematic exhibitions. This section is more uneven, though the possibility of shows with a curatorial intent other that highlighting the collection is promising. The Takashi Murakami room here resembles a garish theme park, whereas Ragnar Kjartansson’s 9-screen video piece “The Visitors” provides a pensive and touching alternative. Combining the blockbuster with the meditative is Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Room,” which can fill even the most jaded art goers with awe.

Ragnar Kjartansson, "The Visitors" (2012), nine channel HD video projection

The Broad isn’t the one museum that’s going to save LA, or make the world respect us as an art capital. It reflects the tastes of two collectors, which as Holland Cotter noted in the New York Times, is actually a throwback to the previous century’s great museums founded by the likes of Morgan and Frick. Admission to the Broad will be free, allowing a larger section of the population the ability to experience contemporary art, something that many more ostensibly “democratic” museums do not offer. It is true that the collection may be uneven, but perhaps it makes sense to think of the Broad, as William Poundstone suggests, as simply one more part of the messy and diffuse cultural landscape that is LA.

Jeff Wall and Charles Ray.

Damien Hirst and Andreas Gursky

John Baldessari and Cady Noland.

Works by Keith Haring, John Ahearn, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Mike Kelley

Assitant Curator Ed Schad discussing Cy Twombly's work.

Robert Longo, Jeff Koons, Peter Halley

El Anatsui, "Red Block" (2010), found aluminum and copper wire, 200 3/4 x 131 1/2 in.

Mark Bradford, "Corner of Desire and Piety" (2008), 72 collages: acrylic gel medium, cardboard paper, caulking, silkscreen ink, acrylic paint, and additional mixed media, 135 3/4 x 344 1/4 in.

Goshka Macuga, "Death of Marxism, Women of All Lands Unite" (2013), wool tapestry, 220 x 113 5/8 in.

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The Broad Museum offers free but timed tickets, which are available on their website. The Museum officially opens to the public on Saturday, September 19, 2015.

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Works by Takashi Murakami on display at the Broad museum in Los Angeles, which opens on Sept. 20. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — Traditional art museums are some of the most conservative and controlling institutions on earth. They are built as vaults to preserve the past, and as monuments to edited histories. In the Gilded Age America of a century or so ago, many new museums were also monuments to private collectors — Henry Clay Frick, J. P. Morgan, Isabella Stewart Gardner — who strove to shape and fix an image that history would have of them, as enlightened power brokers of their day and benefactors to the future.

In our present Gilded Age, private collection museums are again proliferating, but with a difference. Most are devoted to new art, art without a past. The stories they tell are not yet history, but exist in a state of flux. The very definition of collecting, in a time of speculative buying, is now up for grabs. Shouldn’t these changes radically alter the old museum model, loosen it up, make it more experimental, shift its identity from locked treasure house to clearinghouse for fresh ideas?

These questions arise as one of the most eagerly anticipated private museums of contemporary art in the country approaches its opening here next week.

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The Broad is housed in a new $140 million building. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Called The Broad (pronounced brode) and housed in a $140 million, three-story building by Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, it enshrines the collection of some 2,000 works owned by Eli and Edythe Broad, two of this city’s leading philanthropists.

Mr. Broad, a billionaire who made his fortune in home building, has arguably had more impact shaping this city’s cultural identity than anyone else in recent times. For nearly 50 years, he and his wife have been among the country’s most assiduous contemporary collectors. They began picking up work by hot young artists — Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman — in Manhattan in the early 1980s, later filling in historical blanks and doing some buying in their own California backyard.

The inaugural display is clearly intended to show the collection in representative form, and does. The museum’s founding director and chief curator, Joanne Heyler, has installed some 200 works more or less chronologically on the building’s skylighted third floor, beginning with a clutch of classic pieces by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly. Mr. Johns’s 1964 “Watchman” is a star; a blood-red Rauschenberg abstraction from a decade earlier is less familiar, but the Broads cashed in a Van Gogh drawing to acquire it.

“Tulips” by Jeff Koons, a favorite artist of the philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, is among the works included in their museum’s inaugural display. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Andy Warhol, whose Campbell’s Soup Can pictures Ms. Broad first saw (but didn’t buy) as early as the 1960s, has a small gallery of his own; Roy Lichtenstein has a larger one. He is a Broad favorite; they own 34 pieces (there are 10 here), as is his successor in formally polished Pop, Jeff Koons, of whose works the Broads have the greatest number in private hands. Is this something to brag about? An argument can be made that Mr. Koons’s work usefully casts a cold eye on an American, and now global, addiction to bright, empty, throwaway things. But what happens when a presumably critical art is indistinguishable from its target, or is not critical after all? Then chances are good it’s headed for history’s scrap heap, eventually if not now.

Speaking of critical commentary, in an inspired compare-and-contrast move, Ms. Heyler has inserted a 1995 panoramic city painting by the Los Angeles artist Lari Pittman into the Koons gallery. Mr. Pittman’s work, too, comes out of a Pop corner and is formally airtight. It’s also conceptually razor-sharp. It deals with all the American subjects Mr. Koons does — sex, religion, celebrity, death — but with a focus and bite that he lacks.

Lari Pittman, “Like You.” Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

The concentration of Los Angeles art is the most interesting aspect of the inaugural show, at least for this East Coast viewer. Ed Ruscha’s laconically meticulous word paintings and John Baldessari’s recycled film images may fit the collection’s clean-lined Pop proclivities, while the acidic zaniness of Mike Kelley’s work does not, but the Broads bought plenty of it over the years. I’m always glad to see it, and I’m even gladder to encounter things I’ve never seen, like the sculpture called “Bateau de Guerre” by the apocalypse-minded Chris Burden, who died in May. A whirring, blinking death star made of gas cans and toy guns, it wasn’t in the recent Burden retrospective that came to New York.

Photo

Chris Burden’s  “Bateaux de Guerre.” Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

I wish there were more things like it here, under-known, offbeat, less than neat. And there could be. With a reported $200- million-plus endowment and additional funds for acquisitions — nearly that of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art combined — the Broad will be doing a lot more buying. And it would be good if this museum started to stray from the blue-chip-masterpiece path that winds its way from Mr. Koons on the third floor to a gallery on the first floor of big, bland, abstract pictures by Mark Grotjahn and Christopher Wool, artists who, because they cover walls with work that is indisputably “art,” have become universal collection staples.

Their presence here makes the Broad feel ordinary, old-school, predictable. A tight, unadventurous building design doesn’t help. The exterior, with its sheets of perforated, biomorphic white cladding — the color and texture of gefilte fish — is eye-filling but unmagical, though there are nice touches inside. The cavernlike lobby sets up a mood of mystery. The third floor skylights are a pleasure, as are occasional breaks in the white-box gallery walls that give glimpses onto the street.

Robert Therrien’s “No Title,” a 1993 ceramic epoxy on fiberglass piece, adorns the front entrance. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

The street is Grand Avenue, which Mr. Broad, in consultation with the city government, has long planned to develop into a downtown cultural district. The Broad is part of that plan. So is the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall next door to it, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, which Mr. Broad helped found and has generously supported, directly across the street. In a stretched-out, traffic-clogged city it takes a long time to travel anywhere. You need a good reason to go where you’re going. By offering free admission, Mr. Broad intends his museum to be a popular destination.

It surely will be while it’s new, and in the news, and could continue to be. The Broads have always viewed their holdings as a public asset that they make accessible through an active institutional loan program. They refer to their holdings as a lending library, with items regularly leaving for other museums and returning. This traffic flow, enhanced by the arrival of new acquisitions, should encourage people to make repeat visits, knowing they are likely to see new things each time.

But even with this mechanism for flexibility, the Broad is a museum of an old-fashioned kind. It’s been built to preserve a private collection conceived on a masterpiece ideal and consisting almost entirely of distinctive objects: paintings and sculptures; precious things. Apart from most of the objects being new, or at least not old, the Broad could have existed, pretty much as is, a century ago.

Photo

John Ahearn’s “Raymond and Toby,” flanked by Keith Haring paintings. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

But, of course, art itself has changed. It is no longer only about things, hasn’t been for decades. Since the great surge of dematerialization introduced by conceptualism in the 1960s, art has been about, among other things, ideas, actions, sounds, performance, networks, communication. The Broad will have to catch up with this alternative history, a history that the audience it wants to attract and hold already knows. What better way to do so than through collaboration with an institution that has a stake in exploring the same history, meaning, of course, the Museum of Contemporary Art across the street.

The two could share, to their mutual benefit, space, expertise and personnel. What they already share is a tough time for museums and a history with Mr. Broad, who, over a tireless half-century, has done wonders for art in this city, and, with the opening of his museum, is about to do more.

Correction: September 13, 2015
A Sept. 13 print version of this review included an incorrect byline in some editions. It is by Holland Cotter, not Bernard Holland.

==
ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & CULTURE
Review: An early look in the Broad museum reveals a show that doesn’t quite gel

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Entertainment Broad Museum Jackson Pollock Walt Disney Concert Hall Julian Schnabel Los Angeles County Museum of Art Eli Broad

An early look in the Broad museum reveals a show that doesn’t quite gel
Christopher Knight
Los Angeles Times
christopher.knight​@latimes.com

A view of works by Roy Lichtenstein inside the Broad museum. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein)

The city’s urban culture gulch is on the brink of opening a major new art museum — L.A.’s seventh — as the Broad finishes preparations for its Sept. 20 debut downtown.

The flashy new building stands next to Walt Disney Concert Hall and REDCAT and across Grand Avenue from the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Colburn School. The latest project of billionaire philanthropists and art collectors Eli and Edythe Broad, it launches with a 50,000-square-foot exhibition drawn exclusively from its wide-ranging permanent collection.

FULL COVERAGE: Broad Museum

Unfortunately the show doesn’t gel, although many works are superlative. Roughly 250 pieces by about 60 artists have been chosen from around 2,000 possibilities by nearly 200 artists.
The Broad
Caption The Broad
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / © Cy Twombly

Installation view of Cy Twombly works.
The Broad
Caption The Broad
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times and © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / ARS, NY

A space for Andy Warhol works.

Any curator will tell you that it takes time to learn a new building’s personality quirks — to figure out how best to configure temporary walls, take advantage of sight lines that let art pull a visitor through the galleries and calibrate an installation so that objects visually speak to one another. The Broad’s inaugural installation began only in June. That’s quick.

Three visits over that relatively brief period revealed a work in evolutionary progress, with many changes along the way. Some may yet come before doors open to a curious public next week.

The museum bills the exhibition as “a sweeping, chronological journey” through the collection. But, in addition to feeling random (why this artist and not that one?), much of the best work has been seen before. Two large Broad exhibitions — in 2001 and 2008 — were held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, so this opening has a lot of déjà vu.

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The strongest feature is the collection’s depth in the representation of individual artists, especially Pop-related. When the couple commit to acquiring an artist’s work, usually they collect in depth — a practice surely inspired by the example of Giuseppe and Giovanna Panza di Biumo, the great Italian collectors of postwar American art whose collection is an anchor at MOCA.

Few museums have the resources to acquire, say, two dozen Jeff Koons sculptures, as the Broad has. (The inaugural features eight — plus one dreadful painting, a medium for which he has no talent.) Several bountiful single-artist rooms make you linger longer.
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Among Andy Warhol’s 11 paintings is a 1962 “Dance Diagram” correctly displayed on the floor, not hanging on a wall. (It’s meant to send up Jackson Pollock, who dripped paint while dancing around a canvas unfurled on the floor.) Roy Lichtenstein’s 10 Pop paintings provide a stunning survey of his 1960s breakthrough, giving mass-media makeovers to Impressionist, Fauve, Cubist and other historic paintings.

Just four Ellsworth Kelly paintings fill another room, but their seamless fusion of bold geometric shapes, crisp composition and saturated colors grabs you by the lapels. Among them is one from a breakout 1963 series, a masterpiece acquired two years ago.

A vivid green rectangle and a bright blue oval are surrounded by a crimson field. All calmly share the same flat plane, perfectly balanced in scale and chromatic intensity, yet straining to burst their optical bonds. Kelly makes poise look easy.
cComments

NYT Holand Cotter liked what he saw. I will go with that and plan to visit in October when I arrive LA from Boston.
beverlyjfreeman
at 2:56 PM September 13, 2015

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5

Closer to the present, five paintings and sculptures by Takashi Murakami push the collection’s Pop art focus forward in time. Murakami’s creepy cartoon cheerfulness about a Japanese society riven by post-atomic tensions takes a monumental turn in a new, 82-foot-long mural.

“In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow” conjures a mythic narrative inspired by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that tore open the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Great waves of storm-tossed sea monsters cavort around a grim mountain of skulls — a landscape of elegant, stylishly sophisticated awfulness.

Writer Pico Iyer wryly observes in the 8-pound, 2-inch-thick collection catalog published to coincide with the show that wartime emperor Hirohito was buried with the Mickey Mouse wristwatch he snagged on a 1975 trip to Disneyland. Murakami’s art unpeels the perpetual violation of innocence that characterizes modern Japan.
The Broad museum
Caption The Broad museum
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

The Broad, a $140-million museum of modern and contemporary art, is set to open Sept. 20 on Grand Avenue.
The Broad museum
Caption The Broad museum
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the Broad museum and its eye-catching honeycomb facade, dubbed “the veil.”

Perhaps the most viscerally gorgeous room is Cy Twombly’s, with seven lush paintings and three ghostly sculptures. A difficult artist, especially for audiences of the “My Child Could Do That” school of fusty art criticism, Twombly’s paintings mix drawing and writing. The aim is to free them from established strictures of earth-bound depiction.

It’s no mean feat. An epic array of unruly lines unfolds — tightly crabbed scratches, abstract penmanship and luxurious, billowing slathers. Marks lodge inside or sometimes bleed through translucent layers of paint, bursting through the pentimento into enormous floral thunderclouds. Twombly’s art is like an insistent echo of forgotten graffiti, murmuring from ancient walls.

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I wish the exhibition continued on this way, with only monographic rooms. A core collecting philosophy for nearly 40 years would take center stage.

Instead, except for rooms for John Currin and Glenn Ligon, the show mostly flips into conventional mode. Packaged art movements popular in New York in the late 1970s and after are chronicled. Blandness settles in.

Galleries advance the image-scavenging of appropriation art, such as Richard Prince’s sly painting of an old barroom joke and Sherrie Levine’s cast-bronze copy of a Marcel Duchamp urinal. Neo-Expressionism includes the smashed crockery of Julian Schnabel and the psycho-sexual unease of Eric Fischl’s suburbia, both rejecting Minimal and Conceptual coolness and returning to easel painting. In graffiti art, socially marginalized artists like African American whiz-kid Jean-Michel Basquiat and gay activist Keith Haring invade the patrician canvas with the street’s rough-and-tumble.

A choppy, incomplete history is told with too many works juxtaposed in spaces too confined. Many individual works are fine but together feel jumbled and thin.

One feature gives me the willies. It concerns conservation of fragile art. The show is peppered with works on paper, photographic and painted, which should be kept from sunlight but aren’t.

It’s divided between a first-floor suite of rooms, which in the future will house temporary and traveling shows, and a wide-open third-floor space, topped by a dramatic ceiling. A 35,000-square-foot honeycomb of fixed skylights faces north, bringing in flat, cool, filtered natural light.
How Edye Broad’s ‘natural eye’ drew her billionaire husband into the art world
How Edye Broad’s ‘natural eye’ drew her billionaire husband into the art world

Display cases for 16 of Cindy Sherman’s great “Untitled Film Stills,” which ooze all-American anxiety, have the photos lying flat and facing up at the skylights. A monumental Mike Kelley acrylic on paper shows nested picture frames around the tiny vista of a bucolic mountain cabin, which gets swallowed up in a psychedelic frenzy of painted wood-grain that surrounds it.

Barbara Kruger transforms the language of popular graphic design into a subversive threat in an oversized photo-triptych of a sleek, predatory jungle cat underscored by the off-kilter legend, “Make my day.” Jasper Johns’ exquisite 1960 study “White Flag,” an ironic symbol that pleads for negotiated surrender, makes me gulp: It’s oil on newspaper on paper over lithograph.

A triple whammy. Museum director Joanne Heyler, who organized the show with Eli Broad, assures me that conservation precautions are being taken and works will rotate. But why take the risk? I’d feel better if the paper works were all downstairs, shielded from the mischievous sun.

That vast skylight is integral to the building’s narrative. When the $140-million museum was going up, attention was riveted on the façade’s elaborate lattice work, punctuated by a bellybutton window out front. The New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro dubbed the lattice a “veil” shrouding the museum’s inner “vault,” which houses the $2-billion art collection.
Arts and culture in pictures by The Times
Caption Arts and culture in pictures by The Times
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times photographers document the year in arts and culture.
Arts and culture in pictures by The Times | Malaviki Sarukkai
Caption Arts and culture in pictures by The Times | Malaviki Sarukkai
Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Malaviki Sarukkai performing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on July 19, 2015. Sarukkai is the best-known exponent of South Indian classical dance.

But inside the front door an eccentric, head-turning entrance hall is now revealed. Undulating walls and ceiling in dark gray plaster create a long, narrow, organic space. Think urban cavern. The room is a theatrical imitation of a cavity burrowed deep inside the Earth.

It’s art-spelunking time: Welcome to Plato’s Cave.

Plato, student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, used his famous myth of the cave, where deceptive shadows lurk, to frame an aesthetic quandary: Does art’s friction between illusion and reality generate light or merely heat?

Board the Broad’s 105-foot escalator or glass-enclosed elevator, and you shoot up two floors, “Star Trek”-style, past the second-floor vault to the galleries above. There, art is poised between the shadowy illusion below and the clear California sun above.
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NYT Holand Cotter liked what he saw. I will go with that and plan to visit in October when I arrive LA from Boston.
beverlyjfreeman
at 2:56 PM September 13, 2015

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5

The design’s pop-classical mythologizing is likely to slip by unnoticed to most visitors. (Maybe Hirohito would see Pirates of the Caribbean in the entry, not Plato’s Cave.) Theme architecture is always a bit much.

Anyhow, art does it better. Dead ahead off the escalator, Koons’ big, multicolored flower sculpture is laid out at the public’s feet — a fond welcome offering. Machined in stainless steel, these giant tulips, pristine and perfected, will never wilt, unlike nature’s fragile kind.

They’re beyond death. Koons flips the traditional role still-life flowers play, symbolizing mortality.

He further invokes the legendary tulip mania of 17th century Holland. The era also marks the art market’s modern emergence. Paintings and tulip bulbs became mediums of fevered commercial exchange.

“Tulips” tells us something we don’t always want to hear. The prospect of immortality, however vain, can be vested in precincts of incalculable wealth and extraordinary power. Like pyramids, say. Or the Broad.

The sculpture’s witty placement underscores the narrowness of the collection. It’s mainly rich in blue-chip art, defined by market value decided through consistent years of sales and confirmed at auction.

The market, subject to commercial limitations, is hardly infallible. It leaves a lot out. That’s why the show’s “sweep” feels choppy, and why about 80% of the 92 artists featured in the collection’s new catalog are male, which the art market favors.

It’s also why the show stresses art from New York and Europe, where art’s primary trading floors are located, but not Los Angeles, where the collection was assembled. Ironically, in “Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell,” his cheeky 1966-68 sign painting, L.A.’s John Baldessari gives the sardonic lowdown. “Paintings with cows and hens collect dust,” it declares, “while bulls and roosters sell.”

Markets always distinguish between what’s salable and what’s not, but they can’t calculate quality.

===

WASHINGTON POST
Museums
The problem with The Broad is the collection itself

 

Eli and Edythe Broad_photo by Elizabeth Daniels_33_SA_best of Eli and Edythe Broad_photo by Elizabeth Daniels_33_SA_best of

Co-founders of The Broad, Eli and Edythe Broad, in the third-floor galleries. (Elizabeth Daniels /Courtesy of The Broad)
By Philip Kennicott September 13 at 5:47 PM

LOS ANGELES — Eli Broad, the wealthy philanthropist who is about to open a major new museum in Los Angeles, is a billionaire straight from central casting. He is a self-made man in the quintessential American industry — home construction — who has also built and burnt bridges all across this sprawling city. Ask around, and no one seems to like him, though many call him effective and all agree he is the city’s supremely influential cultural leader, a Tamburlaine of contemporary art. They admire his brilliance, covet his money, fear his power and lament his character, which is described as imperious, egomaniacal and relentless.

Next Sunday, Broad and his wife, Edythe, will open The Broad, a $140 million museum that will store and display the Broad Collection, some 2,000 works, with a new one being added, on average, about once a week. Located next to Los Angeles’s iconic landmark of contemporary architecture, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York firm that created the Highline, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and was slated to design the ill-fated and unrealized temporary “Bubble” space for the Hirshhorn in Washington.

The juxtaposition is striking. Gehry’s Disney Hall is set at an angle to the street, and it shimmers, gleams and curves in all directions, while the Broad faces Grand Avenue squarely with a cool, white, box-like form covered in what the architects call a “veil” of perforated glass-fiber reinforced concrete. But even more striking than the contrast with the Gehry building is the Broad’s subtle argument with much of recent museum design. The prevailing theology of many public buildings today, including too many museums, is about erasing the line between the city and the structure, so that one feels the excitement of urban energy ever present, even while looking at art. The most salient example is the new Whitney Museum in New York, which makes love to Manhattan so eagerly that one can’t help but gape at the city’s promiscuous ubiquity.

The Broad is more inward looking, and allows for a more contemplative experience. Perhaps without intending to do so, it recaptures some of the spiritual drama of the much-maligned monumental museums of yesteryear: Fundamental to any tour of the Broad is a long escalator ride from the lobby level to the acre-square expanse of open, column-free exhibition space on the third floor. This escalation performs much of the same function as the wide, monumental steps that front many of the museums built a century ago. It separates the visitor from the city and from his cares, cars and concerns; it is a narthex for the age of distraction, allowing the mind to rebirth itself into a state of greater focus and spiritual expectation.

The escalator connects the two essential elements of the building. The “veil” is the exoskeleton, punctured by diagonal cuts and distended windows that look a bit like the webbed packing material that has mercifully replaced Styrofoam peanuts. At street level, the Grand Avenue corners of the veil lift up, recalling the shaved corner of the redesigned Juilliard School at Lincoln Center, another DS+R project. These triangular portals scoop in visitors from the street, who then discover the voluptuously non-Euclidean lobby, a space that feels both subterranean and monumental at the same time, like caverns measureless to man, or the underbelly of some enormous prehistoric mammal.

The undulating ceiling of the lobby is part of what the architects calls “the vault.” The Broads have long conceived of their collection as a “lending library” of art, and they wanted that collection stored on site. Ordinarily, that would mean creating a lot of back of house space with a storage facility hidden from view.

“We decided to turn that liability into a protagonist,” says Elizabeth Diller, one of the founding partners of DS+R. So the vault became a separate structural element inside the enveloping veil, not just a place to store art, but also a kind of mushroom in a box, overhanging the lobby from a giant cantilever, with the third-floor exhibition hall on the mushroom’s cap.

“You are always in relation to it,” says Diller. “It hovers over you, you shoot through it, you snake back through it and you come back out underneath it.” The museum’s circulation pattern offers visitors glimpses into the vault’s storage space as well, with its sliding racks of art visible from the complex descending staircase visitors follow after exploring the main gallery on the third floor.

All of this rests on a massive scaffolding that covers a three-floor parking structure. So it is a complex structure with dramatic but strikingly intuitive results. In some ways it recalls Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Library at Yale, where the books are contained in a core glass-lined internal tower, surrounded by a dramatic translucent skin that mediates the light, while shutting out the world. It also has affinities with the old Whitney Building, designed by Marcel Breuer, which dramatically invites the visitor to step out of the world so as to see the world, through art, with renewed vigor.

It isn’t, of course, a perfect building. A lecture hall on the second floor feels austere and charmless, and is, surprisingly, the only interior place where one can experience one of the most whimsical features of the building, an oculus that looks from the outside like a thumb print or tiny crater in the veil. But the oculus doesn’t make much sense from inside the lecture hall, which is tiny and dispiriting. And a round elevator, which gives access from the lobby to the third floor, terminates in a distracting glass case in the middle of the main exhibition space.

The main problem, however, isn’t the building, but the Broad collection itself. More than 250 works are on display, and too many of them are the usual high-end trash. The volume of work chosen for the inaugural exhibition, on both the third floor and a smaller first-floor gallery that will eventually be used for temporary shows, is overwhelming. Partition walls clutter the third floor, and obliterate its spatial drama. And too many of the works are so large, and importune the visitor so aggressively, that one feels hectored by hectares of art.

Even though the bad overwhelms the great, there are great works throughout, including a magnificent room devoted to Cy Twombly documenting the arc of his career, iconic Pop works of the 1960s, and compelling art by Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and Jasper Johns. A room of Ellsworth Kelly is too constrained for the work to have impact, as is a giant piece by Robert Therrien, his 1994 “Under the Table,” which is a Brobdingnagian table and chairs stuffed into a Lilliputian gallery at one corner of the top floor.

Someone has taken care, here and there, to make smart moments amid the clangor, but Jeff Koons always wins. The first gallery encountered has large-scale, but effective work by Julie Mehretu, El Anatsui, and Mark Bradford, pieces that accentuate the drama of the exterior world you’ve left behind. Mehretu’s “Cairo,” 2013, recalls the Freudian overlays of history and the unconscious that are the essence of the megalopolis lifestyle; Bradford’s “Corner of Desire and Piety,” 2008, references the social failures of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe and by extension the frailty and irrationality of the urban fabric; and the El Anatsui tapestry, “Red Black,” 2010, undulating on the wall, recalls the skin of the museum itself, woven of many pieces, with a curious declivity dramatizing its strength. But a large Jeff Koons piece is droning nearby, vitiating thought with its generic monotone of irony.

A few spaces for video offer relief, including Ragnar Kjartansson magnificent “The Visitors,” 2012, and a room devoted to William Kentridge. But video doesn’t seem to be an essential part of this first display, nor are there oases of smaller work or works on paper to modulate the experience. Big is the theme, and it’s exhausting.

So leave the building and lest anyone deprecate it too much — which is inevitable given the local swelling and indigestion that Broad’s name seems to cause in this town — stand at the corner of Grand Avenue and Second Street. Behind you is Gehry’s metal masterpiece; before you is an estimable refusal to be intimidated by it. And if you look down the north face of the building, the angle of the distended cuts in the veil seem to be absorbing the power of the bright blue sky, radiating it down to the ground, while along the Grand Street façade the same energies seem to flow up out of the sidewalk and back to the heavens. The veil has an energy of its own, a force field protecting a dramatic rarity: a space for art that respects the experience of looking and engagement, as a thing apart, and something worth leaving the world behind to do on its own terms.

The Broad, located at 221 S. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, opens to the public on Sept. 20. For more information visit http://www.thebroad.org.

Philip Kennicott is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Art and Architecture Critic of The Washington Post. He has been on staff at the Post since 1999, first as Classical Music Critic, then as Culture Critic.

 

Co-founders of The Broad, Eli and Edythe Broad, in the third-floor galleries. (Elizabeth Daniels /Courtesy of The Broad)
By Philip Kennicott September 13 at 5:47 PM

LOS ANGELES — Eli Broad, the wealthy philanthropist who is about to open a major new museum in Los Angeles, is a billionaire straight from central casting. He is a self-made man in the quintessential American industry — home construction — who has also built and burnt bridges all across this sprawling city. Ask around, and no one seems to like him, though many call him effective and all agree he is the city’s supremely influential cultural leader, a Tamburlaine of contemporary art. They admire his brilliance, covet his money, fear his power and lament his character, which is described as imperious, egomaniacal and relentless.

Next Sunday, Broad and his wife, Edythe, will open The Broad, a $140 million museum that will store and display the Broad Collection, some 2,000 works, with a new one being added, on average, about once a week. Located next to Los Angeles’s iconic landmark of contemporary architecture, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York firm that created the Highline, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and was slated to design the ill-fated and unrealized temporary “Bubble” space for the Hirshhorn in Washington.

The juxtaposition is striking. Gehry’s Disney Hall is set at an angle to the street, and it shimmers, gleams and curves in all directions, while the Broad faces Grand Avenue squarely with a cool, white, box-like form covered in what the architects call a “veil” of perforated glass-fiber reinforced concrete. But even more striking than the contrast with the Gehry building is the Broad’s subtle argument with much of recent museum design. The prevailing theology of many public buildings today, including too many museums, is about erasing the line between the city and the structure, so that one feels the excitement of urban energy ever present, even while looking at art. The most salient example is the new Whitney Museum in New York, which makes love to Manhattan so eagerly that one can’t help but gape at the city’s promiscuous ubiquity.

The Broad is more inward looking, and allows for a more contemplative experience. Perhaps without intending to do so, it recaptures some of the spiritual drama of the much-maligned monumental museums of yesteryear: Fundamental to any tour of the Broad is a long escalator ride from the lobby level to the acre-square expanse of open, column-free exhibition space on the third floor. This escalation performs much of the same function as the wide, monumental steps that front many of the museums built a century ago. It separates the visitor from the city and from his cares, cars and concerns; it is a narthex for the age of distraction, allowing the mind to rebirth itself into a state of greater focus and spiritual expectation.

The escalator connects the two essential elements of the building. The “veil” is the exoskeleton, punctured by diagonal cuts and distended windows that look a bit like the webbed packing material that has mercifully replaced Styrofoam peanuts. At street level, the Grand Avenue corners of the veil lift up, recalling the shaved corner of the redesigned Juilliard School at Lincoln Center, another DS+R project. These triangular portals scoop in visitors from the street, who then discover the voluptuously non-Euclidean lobby, a space that feels both subterranean and monumental at the same time, like caverns measureless to man, or the underbelly of some enormous prehistoric mammal.

The undulating ceiling of the lobby is part of what the architects calls “the vault.” The Broads have long conceived of their collection as a “lending library” of art, and they wanted that collection stored on site. Ordinarily, that would mean creating a lot of back of house space with a storage facility hidden from view.

“We decided to turn that liability into a protagonist,” says Elizabeth Diller, one of the founding partners of DS+R. So the vault became a separate structural element inside the enveloping veil, not just a place to store art, but also a kind of mushroom in a box, overhanging the lobby from a giant cantilever, with the third-floor exhibition hall on the mushroom’s cap.

“You are always in relation to it,” says Diller. “It hovers over you, you shoot through it, you snake back through it and you come back out underneath it.” The museum’s circulation pattern offers visitors glimpses into the vault’s storage space as well, with its sliding racks of art visible from the complex descending staircase visitors follow after exploring the main gallery on the third floor.

All of this rests on a massive scaffolding that covers a three-floor parking structure. So it is a complex structure with dramatic but strikingly intuitive results. In some ways it recalls Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Library at Yale, where the books are contained in a core glass-lined internal tower, surrounded by a dramatic translucent skin that mediates the light, while shutting out the world. It also has affinities with the old Whitney Building, designed by Marcel Breuer, which dramatically invites the visitor to step out of the world so as to see the world, through art, with renewed vigor.

It isn’t, of course, a perfect building. A lecture hall on the second floor feels austere and charmless, and is, surprisingly, the only interior place where one can experience one of the most whimsical features of the building, an oculus that looks from the outside like a thumb print or tiny crater in the veil. But the oculus doesn’t make much sense from inside the lecture hall, which is tiny and dispiriting. And a round elevator, which gives access from the lobby to the third floor, terminates in a distracting glass case in the middle of the main exhibition space.

The main problem, however, isn’t the building, but the Broad collection itself. More than 250 works are on display, and too many of them are the usual high-end trash. The volume of work chosen for the inaugural exhibition, on both the third floor and a smaller first-floor gallery that ==
ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & CULTURE
Review : The new Broad museum, though efficiently designed, really only comes alive on the periphery

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Christopher Hawthorne
Los Angeles Times
christopher.hawthorne​@latimes.com

A wall of glass peeks out from under the Broad museum’s honeycomb facade, a striking element on a stretch of Grand Avenue that also features Disney Hall. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a depressingly reliable fact of Los Angeles architecture: Nothing comes easily on Bunker Hill.

In the five decades since city planners radically remade Grand Avenue in a burst of urban-renewal ambition, demolishing its Victorian-era houses and apartment buildings and carving the hilltop into vast super-blocks, architects have struggled to make sense of its peculiar, wide-open scale, which can swallow subtlety whole.

Arata Isozaki, Rafael Moneo and Wolf Prix are among the prominent architects to produce disappointing buildings along Grand. Even Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, ultimately a triumph, suffered agonizing delays and fundraising crises and took nearly 15 years to complete.

The newest addition to this uneven parade of high-rises, cultural buildings and still-empty parcels is the Broad, a $140-million museum of modern and contemporary art set to open Sept. 20 at the corner of Grand and 2nd Street.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

Broad has had contentious relationships with architects over the years — in the 1980s, he hired Gehry to design a house in Brentwood only to fire him and recruit another firm to finish the job — and for this project set an aggressive construction timetable that was serially extended. In a related development, Broad has filed suit against the German company, Seele Inc., brought on to build the museum’s unusual latticed skin, saying fabrication errors added roughly $20 million to construction costs and delayed the opening by more than a year.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that the museum, which has moments of real charm, buckles under the burden of those expectations and conflicts. But in a number of places, including its surprisingly punchless facade, it shows the considerable strain of holding up that weight.

The elements of the Broad that have been most closely scrutinized or most often reworked, in fact, are the most uneven. It is only in the relative shadows — in the peripheral or easily overlooked spaces, or in the rooms added or enlarged late in the design process — that the architecture of the museum really comes to life.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the Broad museum and its eye-catching honeycomb facade, dubbed “the veil.”

When you see the Broad from a distance, what stands out is a sense of near-total enclosure — the consistent cover of the white facade, which DS+R’s Elizabeth Diller refers to as the “veil” covering the “vault” of archive and office space filling most of the second floor.

The skin recalls the 1964 American Cement Building on Wilshire Boulevard, by the L.A. firm DMJM, as well as SANAA’s 2007 New Museum in New York and a range of postwar experiments in concrete shade screens by Le Corbusier and other modernist architects.

More to the point, it helps the Broad act as a foil to Disney Hall next door. Where the concert hall is reflective and extroverted, the museum is matte and mute.

 

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro releases first official photos of The Broad

3 September 2015 | 19 comments

This first set of official images shows Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Broad art museum in Los Angeles ahead of its opening later this month (+ slideshow).

The Broad first images in Los Angeles
Photograph by Warren Air

The photographs – including sets from Iwan Baan and Hufton+Crow – show the three-storey museum’s honeycomb exterior, cave-like lobby and a gallery space with a view of the latticed facade.

Photograph by Benny Chan
Photograph by Benny Chan

The 120,000-square-foot (11,150 square metre) building is located on Grand Avenue in downtown LA, across the street from Frank Gehry‘s Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

Set to open 20 September 2015, The Broad will contain two floors of exhibition space for the display of contemporary art. It will also serve as the headquarters of The Broad Art Foundation’s lending library.

Photograph by Hufton+Crow
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

Described as a “veil and vault” concept, the design features a white exoskeleton that covers the exterior walls and roof. This wrapping – made up of 2,500 fibreglass-reinforced concrete elements – allows daylight to gently penetrate the interior without over-exposing the artwork.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

A large opening along the front facade, referred to as an “oculus” by the architects, marks the location of a lecture hall on the second floor.



Speaking to Dezeen last year, Elizabeth Diller said she wanted the building to be strikingly different from Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

“We realised it was just useless to try to compete – there is no comparison to that building,” Diller said. “Compared to Disney Hall’s smooth and shiny exterior, which reflects light, The Broad is porous and absorptive, channelling light into the public spaces and galleries.”

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

The ground-level lobby is a cave-like space with curving walls sheathed in Venetian plaster. The galleries are located on the first and third floors, and a 105-foot-long (46 metre) escalator shuttles visitors from the lobby to the main gallery on the third floor.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

At the centre of the building is a solid volume that serves as a storage area for the Broad’s collection. Windows punched into this “central mass” enables visitors to peer inside.

Photograph by Hufton+Crow
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

“Rather than relegate the storage to secondary status, the ‘vault’ plays a key role in shaping the museum experience from entry to exit,” said the museum. “Its heavy opaque mass is always in view, hovering midway in the building. Its carved underside shapes the lobby below, while its top surface is the floor plate of the exhibition space.”

“The vault stores the portions of the collection not on display in the galleries or on loan, but DS+R provided viewing windows so visitors can get a sense of the intensive depth of the collection and peer right into the storage holding,” the museum added.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

DS+R won the commission in 2010 through a small invite-only competition. It worked with Gensler on the $140 million (£92 million) project.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

The museum was founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, who also backed the Zaha Hadid-designed Edythe and Eli Broad Art Museum in Michigan, which opened in 2012.

Photograph by Hufton+Crow
Photograph by Hufton + Crow

The Broad in LA will be home to nearly 2,000 pieces of art from the couple’s collection – one of the most significant holdings of postwar and contemporary art in the world. The museum will be open six days a week with free general admission.

Photograph by Elizabeth Daniels
Photograph by Elizabeth Daniels

“We are pleased to offer free general admission so that affordability isn’t a criteria to see the art,” said Eli Broad in a statement. “We have been deeply moved by contemporary art and believe it inspires creativity and provokes and stimulates lively conversations. We hope visitors from Los Angeles and around the country and the world visit and are similarly enriched by this art.”

Photograph by Elizabeth Daniels
Photograph by Elizabeth Daniels

Journalists and a small number of public visitors, including Dezeen columnist Mimi Zeiger, were first given a preview of the The Broad in October 2014.



“The Broad is an object lesson for designers caught on the hamster wheel of producing interestingness,” said Zeiger. “The architecture succeeds in dampening the urge for entertainment, and makes the spectacular simply mundane.”

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

The museum is one of several major projects in LA signalling an architecture boom.

Photograph by Iwan Baan
Photograph by Iwan Baan

On Grand Avenue, LA resident Frank Gehry is planning a mixed-use development opposite his Walt Disney Concert Hall. He is also masterplanning an overhaul of the run-down LA River, and has just unveiled plans for a five-building complex on Sunset Strip. In Beverly Hills, Chinese firm MAD is planning its first US project – a residential block modelled on a hilltop village.

Reports from the New York Art Books Fair 2015 At MoMA PS1

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T Magazine | Openings
Printed Matter’s Shiny New Shop

 

27tmag-10look_print-t_CA0-master675
By KEVIN McGARRYSEPT. 17, 2015
Photo
Clockwise from top left:a rendering of the new space by Handel Architects; the facade of the old building; issues of Art-Rite, the 1970s newsprint magazine sold at Printed Matter. Credit Clockwise from top left: Design by Garrick Gott/Courtesy Handel Architects; Courtesy of David Court & Josh Thorpe; Nancy Lin/Courtesy of Printed Matter
Continue reading the main story

For decades, one of New York’s most beloved bookshops has provided a trove of inspiration for in-the-know artists and graphic designers by selling and exhibiting rare artists’ books and rarer zines, the likes of which you’d never find at most other bookstores or even on Amazon. This year, the storied nonprofit will both turn 40 and move from its cramped Chelsea storefront to a larger space farther west. Nostalgists will miss the old sticker-plastered headquarters, but Printed Matter is dedicated to remaining as unconventional as ever, as witnessed by this month’s raucous edition of their NY Art Book Fair, a lively marketplace where bookmongers from around the globe packed into MoMA PS1 for what felt more like a music festival than a convention for bibliophiles.

231 11th Avenue, N.Y., printedmatter.org

A version of this article appears in print on September 27, 2015, on page M262 of T Magazine with the headline: Printed Matter’s Shiny New Shop. Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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ART INFO

11 Things to See (and Hear) at the New York Art Book Fair

11 Things to See (and Hear) at the New York Art Book Fair
Visitors at last years New York Art Book Fair.
(Photo by BJ Enright )

Some 370 book vendors will set up shop at MoMA PS1 for Printed Matter’s tenth annual New York Art Book Fair (NYABF) this week, running from Friday to Sunday (with a preview Thursday night). In addition to peddling art books and magazines, the fair offers an overwhelming number of events to visitors. Here are some of the highlights.

From musicians performing in the courtyard (and streaming on Know-Wave online radio)  — including “lullanoise” band Sontag Shogun — to a concurrent academically-minded conference (the Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference, now in its eighth year), there is no shortage of things to see and hear. (There is even an assorted on- and off-site “special events” section, which includes a Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation photobook awards ceremony and a closing party at Greenpoint’s Good Room, running from 9pm to “late.”)

It’s not easy, or even good, to whittle down something as expansive as NYABF into a neatly packaged guide: If anything, the fair is an occasion for the serendipity of unplanned browsing to take hold, an approach we encourage. With that said, our suggestions follow, in chronological order of their appearance. For further details, consult the NYABF website or official printed program:

1. Specialized exhibitor sections: Xe(rox) & Paper + Scissors and the Small Press Dome; Focus; Friendly Fire
Running all three days of the NYABF (and during Thursday’s preview), these themed sections should present an abundance of the unexpected, from photographic work, to micro-circulation zines, and political projects.

2. “Blueprint for Counter Education” with Jeffrey Schnapp, metaLAB (at) Harvard. (2-3pm on Friday)
This talk promises to revisit a boxed set called “Blueprint” from the late 1960s, a project that saw the intersection of posterism, radical teaching models, and graphic design.

3. The Revolution Will Be Printed (3:15-4:40 on Friday, at the Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference) 
A panel dedicated to “the role of artists’ publications and printed matter in social practice and community engagement” is an ideal prologue to items 10 and 11 on this list, especially one uniting editor and publisher Lobregat Balaguer of the Philippines with artist Steffani Jemison of New York, who recently participated in MoMA’s widely-lauded Jacob Lawrence exhibition.

4. “Good 70s” by Mike Mandel, with Sharon Helgason-Gallagher & Jason Fulford (4-5pm on Friday)
In 1974, Mike Mandel posed photographers and curators for baseball-card snapshots, crafting the results into a work called “Baseball-Photographer Trading Cards.” This talk centers on the reissued “Good 70s” limited-edition box of this and other projects by Mandel, published this fall by J&L books.

5. A Manual Presentation – “Solution 263: Double Agent” (3-4pm on Saturday)
An unusual take on artistic  “performativity” and state agency arrives here care of a discussion about “Solution 263: Double Agent,” a recently-published book by Alhena Katsof and Dana Yahalomi engaging, among other things, the restaging of the declaration of Israel’s statehood at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 1948. The artist Jill Magid will also participate in the conversation as a contributor to the book, which was released last month by Sternberg Press.

6. Statement and Counter-Statement: Notes on Experimental Jetset” (6-7pm on Saturday)
Experimental Jetset has emerged as a leading graphic design practice (recent clients include the Whitney), and this talk will shed light on 20 years of their work. The Dutch designers will speak on the occasion of the publication of “Statement and Counter-Statement” by Roma, the first-ever volume dedicated to their work. Fans of Experimental Jetset might also consider attending a discussion on Melanie Bonajo’s “NON HUMAN ANIMAL PERSONS,” a publication designed by the group, on Sunday from 6-7pm.

7. KeynoteWalead Beshty and Liam Gillick (6-7:30pm on Saturday, at the Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference)
These two cerebral artists will discuss the networks in which art circulates, and in so doing perhaps circulate some ideas of their own. They are brought together by “Ethics,” a book edited by Beshty (with Gillick as a contributor) published in March by MIT Press as part of their influential Documents of Contemporary Art series.

8. ADJUNCT COMMUTER WEEKLY. (7-8pm on Saturday)
Last month, we chronicled the launch of Dushko Petrovich’s earnest meta-media project catering to the adjunct academic, “a growing and increasingly influential demographic.” Now you can hear contributors to the first (and last) print issue of Adjunct Commuter Weekly read from the funky tabloid.

9. Paginated Exhibitions with Charles Stankievech, K. Verlag & Regine Ehleiter (1-2pm on Sunday)
This conversation will focus on the practice of the publishing outfit K. Verlag to tackle a subject that is rather central to the NYABF: publishing as a means of exhibition-making. The discussion promises to set examples from K. Verlag’s output against context from “the historical arc of publishing and the curatorial.”

10. “STREETOPIA: artists respond to displacement” (2-3pm on Sunday in the PS1 basement theatre)
A panel discussion on the “Streetopia” exhibition held at Luggage Store Gallery in May 2012 in response to urban “cleanup” and gentrification policies enacted in San Francisco, this promises to be one of the NYABF’s livelier talks. Nearly three decades after Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel Ryan published “The Fine Art of Gentrification,” the role of artists and cultural production in urban life remains a hotly contested subject, and the exhibition at Luggage Store Gallery seems to be an intriguing case study.

11. The Art of Movement Building: Black Lives Matter. (5-6pm on Sunday)
To continue the politics-and-aesthetics theme, go to this panel (which is very thinly described on the NYABF website) to see if one can productively engage with “the use of art and graphics in the Black Lives Matter movement” in an art context. It’s possible (see The Yams Collective at P! last year), but difficult (see the furor provoked by David Joselit in the February 2015 issue of Artforum).

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the dates of two talks occurring as part of the Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference.

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Books

5 Mini Reviews of Zines from the NY Art Book Fair

Inside the 2015 edition of the New York Art Book Fair (photo by Claire Voon for Hyperallergic)

The 2015 edition of Printed Matter‘s NY Art Book Fair opens to the public today and in anticipation we reviewed some of its standout offerings. From risographs of skateboarding samurai to an essay ruminating on the public persona of Missy Elliott, the fair truly has something for everyone.

(Pick up a copy of Hyperallergic’s NY Art Book Fair zine at the fair to read these reviews — and much more — in print.)

Guide to Being Alone by Julia Arredondo

(courtesy Vice Versa Press)

Where: Vice Versa Press, Oklahoma (table A07)

We all go through stages when we’re suddenly alone, whether through a breakup, distancing from negative friends, or just deciding other people can keep away for a while. Whether you are alone by circumstance or by choice, the Guide to Being Alone by Julia Arredondo from Oklahoma’s Vice Versa Press — its first year at the NY Art Book Fair — personally delivers positive step-by-step advice in a cut-and-paste collage style. As an alternative to relying on your phone companion, the guide encourages appreciating downtime even in dark moments, getting into vinyl, taking a public transit adventure, and confidently dominating a dance floor solo. As Arredondo writes: “Don’t wait around for some fools to call, go do your thing!” —Allison Meier

Cruisin’ Cruisers by Glen Baldridge

Where: Endless Editions, New York (table A40)

This zine is inspired by a 2008 YouTube video about a man going through a midlife crisis who calls up a PT Cruiser dealership to score a “pussy magnet.”  The story is a colorful tribute to a short-lived (2001–10) and retro-styled car that — as one YouTube commenter puts it — “… epitomises everything thats [sic] bad about American cars …” You can’t argue with that. —Hrag Vartanian

Girls Like Us, issue 7 by Maria Guggenbichler, Jessica Gysel, Sara Kaaman, and Katja Mater

(courtesy Girls Like Us)

Where: Girls Like Us, Amsterdam (table N57)

“I feel like we’re just now developing a serious language for artists who use their body as material,” says K8 Hardy, who designed a series of covers for the seventh issue of Girls Like Us — they look like mashups of Martha Rosler collages and Jon Rafman’s “9 Eyes of Google Street View” translated into Hardy’s distinctive self-portrait idiom — in the accompanying interview. The 120-page magazine, devoted to the theme of the body and printed almost entirely in shades of gold, features a dozen interviews, including with African-American filmmaker Barbara McCullough and German-Iranian author Jina Khayyer; an essay on a disturbing, early chapter in the history of the biotech industry by Crystal Z Campbell; and a pointed analysis of representations of black women in mainstream US media in the 1990s (from Anita Hill to Missy Elliott) by Derica Shields. —Benjamin Sutton

Temple of Skate by Hoyeah Studio

Where: Knuckles and Notch, Singapore (table A36)

Skateboarding and samurai meet in this quirky 24-page collection of risographs by Hoyeah Studio, founded by the Singapore-based illustrator Tuckwai who himself grew up skateboarding in the late 1980s. Rendered in the style of ancient Japanese scrolls, Temple of Skate’s subject is a fantasy skate park reserved for martial arts disciples and grand masters who balance on boards as they shoot arrows, perform tricks on halfpipes in the shadow of a Japanese maple, and catch air off the slanted roofs of temples.  —Claire Voon

TOKYO diary by Margherita Urbani

(courtesy Commune)

Where: Commune, Japan (table A13)

For two weeks, Urbani, who hails from Italy, traveled through Japan’s capital, each day recording through sketches her observations of the striking, the strange, and the seemingly banal. The result, TOKYO diary, is less a play-by-play narrative of a first-timer’s experience than an endearing, personal glimpse into a foreign culture that hovers between modernizing and adhering to tradition. The zine’s pages present a teasing patchwork of doodles — one that will make you long to experience the city yourself. —CV

 

 

The 2015 edition of the NY Art Book Fair continues at MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, Queens) through September 20.

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HUFFINGTON POST

 

Jack Pierson Releases Third Installment Of ‘Tomorrow’s Man’ (NSFW)

Jack Pierson

Photographer and artist Jack Pierson’s newest book is now available — the third volume in his ongoing series Tomorrow’s Man.

The previous two volumes have included the work and collaborations with a number of other artists, and this third volume includes the work of three more: Richard Tinkler, Peter Fend and writer Veralyn Behenna.

The title of this ongoing project, Tomorrow’s Man, comes from the famed physique pictorial magazine from the 1950s and ’60s.

“Reappropriating the publication’s title as well as its retro bodybuilding aesthetic, Pierson takes viewers on a dizzying visual journey encompassing the full spectrum of cultural references,” a press release for the book said.

Check out some of the work yourself below.

Tomorrow’s Man 3 made its debut at Printed Matter’sNew York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, on Sept 18.

 

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">David Axell by Jack PiersonArt by Richard Tinkler</span> Courtesy of Jack Pierson Studio and Roger Bywater David Axell by Jack PiersonArt by Richard Tinkler
<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Courtesy of Jack Pierson Studio and Roger Bywater</span> Justus Ratzke by Jack Pierson Courtesy of Jack Pierson Studio and Roger Bywater
Jack Pierson
<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Mac P by Jack Pierson</span> Courtesy of Jack Pierson Studio and Roger Bywater Mac P by Jack Pierson
<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Mateus Lages by Jack Pierson</span> Courtesy of Jack Pierson Studio and Roger Bywater Mateus Lages by Jack Pierson
Jack Pierson

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Fairs
 

Let’s talk literature at the New York Art Book Fair

Along with 370 publishers, artists, institutions and dealers in antique and rare books, the event offers a rich programme of discussions

by Pac Pobric  |  17 September 2015

Let’s talk literature at the New York Art Book Fair

Social Malpractice at the 2013 New York Art Book Fair

The sign of a good book is usually the discussion it engenders. Perhaps that’s why a highlight of the tenth edition of the New York Art Book Fair, which opens on Friday, 18 September, at MoMA PS1, is the programme of talks organised over the weekend.

The schedule includes keynote addresses by the artists Walead Beshty and Liam Gillick on Saturday evening. Their discussion takes place on the occasion of the new book Ethics, part of the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series, edited by Beshty and published by MIT Press.

More informal conversations, grouped together under the title The Classroom, will focus on topics like the Black Lives Matter movement and the release of the new publication Adjunct Commuter Weekly. The latter is “a lifestyle magazine devoted to the interests of a growing and increasingly influential demographic”—ie, part-time professors—edited by the artist and writer Dushko Petrovich.

The fair, which is free and open to the public, includes around 370 publishers, artists, institutions and dealers in antique and rare books from 30 countries, including the US. It is organised by Printed Matter, a New York-based non-profit that focuses on artist’s books. Sponsors include American Apparel, the M. Wells restaurant and the online art publication Hyperallergic.


ART NEWS
Market News

You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Tote: The New York Art Book Fair Opens At MoMA PS1

splash-image-1In many ways, the annual New York Art Book Fair—which opened last night and runs all weekend at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City—can feel like the publishing version of the South by Southwest music festival, which is to say, the visual equivalent of hearing seven bands play all at once as you walk down a crowded and hot Texas street with a hangover. But if you can stomach the headache-inducing visual noise and actually “get in the pit,” such as it is, there is a lot of good stuff to take in.

“This is the biggest weekend in New York City, every year,” the Los Angeles artist Cali Thornhill-Dewitt stated bluntly. He was outside of the booth that his crew WSSF were running, located in a small room on the third floor. He didn’t offer too many details about the booth, but he did let one important piece of information slip. “There is a Marky Mark shirt in there,” Thornhill-Dewitt said. Sold!Also in that small room and also from Los Angeles was Wendy Yao, who had a stall for her store and publishing imprint, Ooga Booga. She was selling, among many other things, shirts from the artist Oliver Payne that contained lyrics from the record Chill Out by the seminal British conceptual electronica duo the KLF. The shirts serve as an extension of a performance Payne staged last year at the L.A. Oooga Booga space 356 Mission wherein the album was played in its entirety. “It was really awesome, no ins and outs,” Yao said. So, like one of those high-school lock-in parties? “It was a lock-in. With a chill-out security guard. You were required to chill.” (Truthfully, a classic rave-style chill-out room would’ve been very appreciated at the fair, which is nothing if not completely overwhelming.)Elsewhere, the booth of New York’s Karma bookstore had on display a new monograph from the Los Angeles artist Sterling Ruby as well as some of Ruby’s cardboard-based collages. These works had the wet and dirty feel of something sourced directly off of one of L.A.’s endless strip-mall streets, with the occasional Miller Light six-pack peaking through. I asked Karma’s Marie Becker if Ruby actually drinks those six packs himself before putting them to artistic use. “That’s a good question. I’m sure some of that he really just finds and he puts together. I mean, I don’t know if that Evian box he actually drinks,” she said. “It’s very…” she continued later, trailing off. “It’s used.”Right around the corner and down the stairs from Karma was David Zwirner’s contribution to the fair, the video Death Disco Dance by Marcel Dzama, projected big on a basement wall at PS1. The video features dancers in polka-dot leotards in a rubble-filled clearing adjacent to a highway, flanked by some ominous characters in giant Easter Island–esque masks. For the occasion, those very leotard-clad dancers were in attendance, doing two performances in front of the projection. “We’re not doing this dance,” Vanessa Walters, one of the dancers told me, gesturing up to the video. “We’re doing a different dance. But it’s related. And we don’t have these guys,” she said, pointing to the aforementioned masked intruders.“Last year’s New York Art Book Fair broke the attendance record for MoMA PS1, and people are all coming out for print,” Jonathan Thomas, editor-in-chief of the Third Rail told me in the middle of a conversation about my new internet service provider. “We had been talking about the internet recently, and how fast your new internet connection is, and here it is, a slower pace to work with print. But that so many people want it, I think that says something about it.” It’s true: people love art books! Although I didn’t outright buy anything, I ended up somehow gradually accruing a bunch of stuff as the night went on. Never in my life did I wish I had a tote bag more! I wonder if anyone on the grounds were selling such a thing. I guess now I’ll never know.At the Nieves booth, Anthony Atlas was holding it down and very excited about a photo book published by Edition Patrick Frey about grand prix racing called Gasoline and Magic. “My father worked for a race-car driver for a long time and I’m exploring it, going back in time,” Atlas said. So are you keeping the book, or giving it to your dad? “Well, if they have more at the end of the fair, I’m going to buy another one and give it to my dad.” In other words, he’s keeping it. Was this a subtle suggestion that his father might not appreciate limited-edition art books? “No, I don’t think he does,” Atlas said. “He might appreciate this.” Atlas then pulled out a fantastic poster of a race-car driver, one of his father’s former clients. I thought it was really cool and I’m not even a dad! Talking about his station at the fair, Atlas commented that “honestly, this is a room with a lot of intensity” (he was in the same small room that housed Ooga Booga and WSSF). “It’s hot already, and it’s been about ten minutes of the fair officially being open, which doesn’t bode well. It’s a lot of vibe in this room. I wish I was in a rare-book room, where I could browse library books.”With Atlas’s comment ringing in my head, I went down to the boiler room of PS1 to visit a special installation by antiquarian bookseller Arthur Fornier about Maurice R. Stein and Larry Miller’s work of “radical pedagogy” The Blueprint for Counter Education, which, in broad strokes, attempted to create a new academic canon for post-’60s culture. The installation was based on elementary instructions from the book’s “shooting script,” and was designed to feel like the off-campus apartment of a radical grad student circa 1970. John Fahey softly played on speakers flanked by lit candles, and a table of books direct from the author’s library was available to peruse. This was pretty close to the chill-out zone I was looking for. “I love being in a meditative space where people can actually come and take a pause, or step out of the maelstrom of 40,000 people walking through a book fair and come down here and listen to music, read a few books,” Fornier told me.Out of the boiler room, through the courtyard, and past a man tepidly playing middling techno at a moderate volume, there was the third world–like zine tent. Inside, the Philadelphia comics legend and true unsung hero Andrew Jeffrey Wright was present, alongside the notorious Retard Riot, also known as Noah Lyon. Although Jeffrey Wright—who had for sale the new edition of his “Abs With Labs” calendar, which combines drawings of physically fit dogs with, among other things, furniture design and pizza—has in the past performed comedy with his group the New Dreamz at the fair, this was his first time manning a booth. “It’s like just nonstop streams of people coming through, putting their hands on your stuff,” he said. Do the visitors’ paws ever get too grubby? “I have buttons in a shoebox, and sometimes [art fair attendees] massage their hands in the shoebox and stare off into the distance,” he said. “Whatever, if it makes them feel good, it’s fine.”Jeffrey Wright wrote the foreword to a new book of Paper Rad zines debuting at the fair, which was, on the opening night, sadly stuck in customs. There was, however, a thoughtful collection of Paper Rad material encased under glass, a shrine to a collective that existed just as much digitally as physically (Cory Arcangel’s Arcangel Surfware booth had some early Arcangel Nintendo hacks on hand that evoked a very similar era).A zine-game veteran, Paper Rad member Jessica Ciocci was able to keep everything very much in perspective. “That’s kind of the vibe of this place,” Ciocci said during a conversation about the fair, while surveying the scene in PS1’s courtyard. She paused. “Very nerdy.”

Copyright 2015, ARTnews Ltd, 40 W 25th Street, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10010. All rights reserved.

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September 18, 2015 12:29 p.m.
Read Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon’s Zine
By Carl Swanson

Photo: Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy David Zwirner Books.

Photo: Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy David Zwirner Books.

Photo: Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy David Zwirner Books.

Photo: Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy David Zwirner Books.

Photo: Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy David Zwirner Books.

 

Photo: Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Courtesy David Zwirner Books.

Among the artist-made books (as opposed to the books about artists) at the New York Art Book Fair, which opened last night at MoMA PS1 to a hustling, bustling VIP crowd, is a zinelike collaboration between Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon. Both are artists with David Zwirner, whose new publishing house put the two artists together on the project. “They like each other but had never worked together,” says Lucas Zwirner, who works with his family’s bookmaking operation. First Pettibon gave Dzama some of his unfinished drawings, which Dzama collaged, and then, a week later, Dzama brought some of his to Pettibon, which Pettibon added some of his gnomic text to. “They swapped and then reswapped,” says Lucas. “They wanted to augment each other’s work.” It comes in an edition of 300, none of which are signed, which is why they’re only $30. The tone is a bit anxious and perverse. As for what it means, well, some of Dzama’s drawings — and he’s always drawing — are on Chateau Marmont letterhead. But only since he was in L.A. during part of the collaboration, so the only meaning there is that some artists sometimes get to live like they’re in the movie business. But the zine’s repeated phrase is: “The appeal to the reader is that of a folk or fairy tale well told.” To which, in one corner, Pettibon’s wan all-caps scrawl is added: “This story, if it is one, deserves the closure of a suicide.”

MOMA’s Phenomenal Picasso Sculpture Exhibition – Images and Texts

 

“Picasso Sculpture,” a show at the Museum of Modern Art of nearly a hundred and fifty works by the definitive artist of the twentieth century, always figured to impress. It turns out to astound. I came away from the exhibits, which date from 1902 to 1964, convinced that Picasso was more naturally a sculptor than a painter, though all his training and early experience, and by far most of his prodigious energy, went into painting. He made mere hundreds of three-dimensional works, in episodic bunches, amid a ceaseless torrent of about four and a half thousand paintings. When moved to mold, carve, or assemble, he sometimes borrowed artist friends’ studios and tools and enlisted their collaboration—most notably, starting in 1928, with Julio González, who worked in iron. Picasso could be feckless about the standards of the craft. (The director of the ceramics workshop in Vallauris, where, in the late forties, Picasso took up the medium of fired clay, noted that any apprentice who went about things as the artist did would never be hired.) But, because Picasso was an amateur—nearly a hobbyist—in sculpture, it revealed the core predilections of his genius starkly, without the dizzying subtleties of his painting but true to its essence. At this magnificent show, curated by Ann Temkin and Anne Umland, I began to imagine the artist’s pictures as steamrolled sculpture. Most of his paintings conjure space that is cunningly fitted to the images that inhabit it. When the space becomes real, the dynamic jolts.

The show’s first gallery features the best known and, instructively, the least successful of Picasso’s early forays into the medium: “Head of a Woman” (1909), a bronze, cast from clay, which is complexly rumpled, in the manner of incipient Cubism. The work fails because the energetic surface articulation bears no organic relation to the head’s sullen mass; it amounts to a wraparound relief. The piece is a painter’s folly, which Picasso did not repeat (except with the similarly hapless plaster “Apple,” of the same year), even as its style vastly influenced such subsequent sculptors as the futurist Umberto Boccioni. (No innovation of Picasso’s was too tangential to spawn a modern-art cliché.) Picasso put sculpture aside for a few years, then returned to it as an extension of his breakthroughs, with Georges Braque, in the revolutionary aesthetics of collage. Two versions of the large, wall-hung “Guitar” (1912-14)—the first in cardboard, paper, and string; the second in sheet metal and wire—did for sculpture something of what Picasso had already done for painting: they turned it inside out. The term “negative space,” for the air that he let into the anatomized musical instrument, doesn’t suffice to describe the effect. The voids register as active forms, which the shapes passively accommodate. No longer set apart from the world, forward-looking art after “Guitar” adds the world to its inventory.

Then came the most talismanic of modern bibelots: “Glass of Absinthe” (1914), a small bronze of a cubistically fissured, ridged, and whorled vessel with, atop it, a filigreed metal spoon bearing a bronze sugar cube. Picasso created it the same year that the liquor was banned in France, in the mistaken belief that it made people crazy. (It was really just fancied by people who were prone to craziness.) All six casts of the work, from as many collections, are convened here for the first time since their creation. Each incorporates a differently designed spoon and is differently slathered or dappled with paint. The brushwork, especially in sprightly dot patterns, blurs the objects’ contours, rendering them approximate in ways that wittily invoke intoxication. But these are true sculptures, as judged by the essential test that they function in the round. Circle them. Each shift in viewpoint discovers a distinct formal configuration and image. Picasso here steps into the history of the art that, in order to move a viewer, requires a viewer to move. The best of his other Cubism-related works, such as “Still Life” (1914), which fringes a tipped shelf with upholstery tassels, run to assembled and painted reliefs, like pop-up pictures. Their dance of everyday stuff with august form—reality marrying representation—has never ceased to inspire generations of visual hybridists, from Kurt Schwitters to Robert Rauschenberg and Rachel Harrison, and it never will. But these works mainly harvested ideas from Picasso’s painting. His attention to sculpture lapsed again, until 1927.

Picasso’s creations in plaster, wood, and metal between that banner year and the mid-thirties belong in the first rank of sculpture since ancient times. Most are massy: female forms that can seem swollen to the point of bursting, or tumescent and writhing with sexual abandon. A glory of the show is the number of works rendered in fragile plaster, straight from the artist’s hand; he rarely paid much attention to the surface quality of the final bronzes, which tend to be dull. His initial masterworks of the period, made with González, are open networks of thin iron rods, vaguely suggesting jungle gyms, which gave rise to the somewhat misleading catchphrase “drawing in space,” coined by Picasso’s dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. More truly, the rectangular arrays encage space. They yield an image—coalescing into a kind of drawing, of a geometrically abstracted figure—when viewed from either end. That’s delightful. But the wonder of the works is their appearance from other angles: the image pulled apart, accordion fashion, to drink in the ambient air. Again, emptiness becomes substance.

Notice, incidentally, how the rods meet the bases. As always, when a Picasso sculpture rests on more than one point each footing conveys a specific weight and tension, like the precisely gauged step of a ballerina. It presses down or strains upward in a way that gives otherwise inexplicable animation to the forms above. Few other sculptors play so acutely with gravity. David Smith is one. Another is Alberto Giacometti, whom Picasso befriended, admired, and mightily affected. Works in this show directly anticipate Giacometti’s skinny figures and even, by a few months, his classic, harrowing “Woman with Her Throat Cut” (1932).

Of the scores of pieces that merit lengthy discussion, I’ll cite one: “Woman with Vase” (1933), a bronze of a plaster sculpture that, cast in cement, accompanied “Guernica” at the Spanish Pavilion of the World’s Fair in Paris, in 1937. She stands more than seven feet tall, with a bulbous head, breasts, and belly, on spindly legs. Her left arm is missing, as if ripped off. Her right arm extends far forward, clutching a tall vase. Seen from the side, the gesture suggests a tender offering. Viewed head on, it delivers a startling, knockout punch. What isn’t this work about? It conjoins Iberian antiquity and Parisian modernity, love and loss, hope and anger, celebration and mourning. Another bronze cast of it stands at Picasso’s tomb, in the Château de Vauvenargues, as a memorial and, perhaps, as a master key to the secrets of his art. Certainly, it overshadows the somewhat indulgent—and, now and then, plain silly—sculptural creations of his later years, such as the gewgaw-elaborated bronze “Little Girl Jumping Rope” (1950). Exceptions from that time include a stunning selection of his riffs on ceramic vessels, lively bent-metal maquettes for public art, and a group of six “Bathers” from 1956: flat figures, one almost nine feet tall, made of scrap wood and standing in a shared, beachlike bed of pebbles. Its éclat might well sink the hearts of contemporary installation artists.

The herky-jerky intermittence of Picasso’s involvement with sculpture might seem an obstacle to a reconsideration of his achievement, but it proves to be a boon. Each generation looks at Picasso in its own way. This show gives us a Picasso for an age of cascading uncertainties. The story it tells is messier than the period-by-period, not to mention mistress-by-mistress, narratives of the past. Instead, each piece finds the artist in a moment of decision, adventuring beyond his absolute command of pictorial aesthetics into physical and social space, where everything is in flux and in question. We are in Picasso’s studio, looking over his shoulder, and wondering, along with him, What about this? 

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peter schjeldahl

Peter Schjeldahl has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998 and is the magazine’s art critic.

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Art & Design
Review: Picasso, Completely Himself in 3 Dimensions

By ROBERTA SMITH

SEPT. 10, 2015
Photo
Picasso’s “Woman With Hat,” made of painted sheet metal in the early 1960s, is in “Picasso Sculpture” at the Museum of Modern Art. Credit 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Philip Greenberg for The New York Times

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“Still Life With Guitar,” 1912.

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“Standing Bull,” 1947 or 1948.

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“Bust of a Woman” in the gallery Boisgeloup Sculpture Studio, 1930-32.

 

Many exhibitions are good, some are great and a very few are tantamount to works of art in their own right — for their clarity, lyricism and accumulative wisdom.

The Museum of Modern Art’s staggering “Picasso Sculpture” is in the third category. Large, ambitious and unavoidably, dizzyingly peripatetic, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It sustains its vision through a ring of 11 grand spaces on the museum’s fourth floor, tracing the serial genre-bending forays into three dimensions wrought by this 20th-century titan of painting. Each bout lasted a few years and was different from the one before, and each has been given its own gallery, more or less.

With one stunning exception — the voluptuous saturnine Marie-Thérèse Walter — the women in Picasso’s life don’t herald stylistic changes in the round as they tend to on canvas. In sculpture, the materials become the muses.

The show, which opens on Monday, is the latest in a string of landmark Pablo Picasso exhibitions for which the Modern has been justly famous since 1939. It is full of loans that perhaps only this museum has the clout to secure, including about 50 pieces from its collaborator, the Musée Picasso in Paris. The approximately 140 sculptures here were made between 1902 and 1964; encompass at least 10 media — among them wood, plaster, sheet metal, clay, beach-smoothed pebbles — and, in assemblage, all manner of found objects great and small. The galleries are dotted with works never before exhibited in New York, and reunite related efforts not seen together since they were in Picasso’s studio.

The show’s two grandest, most thrilling reunions are the gathering in its second gallery of all six “Glass of Absinthe” sculptures of 1914, those tiny weirdly Keatonesque charmers of painted bronze that can suggest drunken faces and profiles; and in its fourth, the five monumental tumescent heads in white plaster of Marie-Thérèse, more than have ever been shown together, at least in the United States. Seen from the vantage point of the absinthe glasses, the first Marie-Thérèse bust looms in the distance, as if at the end of a garden.

High points aside, there hasn’t been a Picasso sculpture survey of this scope in this country since 1967. That’s when the first large exhibition of sculpture that Picasso ever permitted reached the Modern after incarnations in London and Paris. He kept his sculptures close, like family, and none closer than the great plasters, which were apparently absent from the ’67 presentation. He lived among great jumbles of them from the 1930s on, as attested by the photographs that Brassai took in the artist’s studios between 1932 and 1945. Two dozen Brassai images line a small gallery here, adding to the show’s ricocheting cross-references and insights.

Credit2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Philip Greenberg for The New York Times

Like its predecessor, this exhibition raises the question of whether Picasso was a better sculptor or painter. It’s a tough call. In each medium, he disrupted art with a track-switching masterpiece: In painting there is the vehement “Demoiselles d’Avignon” of 1907, on view in the fifth-floor galleries, one of the central pylons on which he and Braque erected Cubism. And he did art perhaps an even greater favor with the boxy constructed wall piece “Guitar” — a 1914 work that initiates modern sculpture by establishing space itself — hollowness, volume, weightlessness — as one of its primary materials.

 

Picasso was more completely himself in three dimensions: a magician, a magpie genius, a comedic entertainer and a tinkerer with superb reflexes. His many gifts — versatility, voraciousness, a need for constant reinvention — are more sharply apparent in real space and tangible materials. We can’t miss his consummate grasp of tactility and form or of the potential for found objects and materials to lead double lives. Screws could be legs of a girl reading a book. A spigot could be the crest of a crane whose body and tail feathers were once the head of a shovel. A small flat-faced deity carved from a scrap of wood is reddened and rubbed until it looks like ancient terra cotta.
Photo
“Glass of Absinthe,” 1914. Credit 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Philip Greenberg for The New York Times

With the exception of cast bronze, which he seems not to have cared for, Picasso never met a material he couldn’t subdue, exalt and transform at the same time, nor come across an idea in other art — whether ancient or contemporary — that he could not use. There’s no wasted motion, not an extra grain of matter, just a supreme economy. Even pedestrian pieces have redeeming aspects. The inexplicably beloved bronze “Man With a Lamb” of 1943 may strike you as the best Leonard Baskin ever, or maybe a monument to John Cleese, but the big clumsy hands with which the man grasps the struggling creature are extraordinary. And, in fact, Picasso mastered bronze when he personalized it by painting it, as he had with the absinthe glasses.

That’s just one way he brought painting with him to sculpture. In the show’s eighth gallery, covering 1945 to 1953, he paints with glaze on ceramic vessels in the shape of figures and animals, on bronze casts of assemblages, including the shovel-backed “Crane,” and on a woman and toddler cobbled together from flimsy scraps of lumber that might be a work by an outsider artist. Here also, he makes monstrous assemblage flowers for a ceramic pot and a watering can from wood, metal and crockery shards ingeniously stuck together with plaster and painted. Their bristling energy and yellow colors suggest a homage to van Gogh’s sunflowers. And then, in the same time span, he goes tiny and smooth, incising stunning little faces on impeccably chosen beach pebbles, out-Kleeing Paul Klee with a little Cycladic thrown in for good measure.

Picasso’s constant motion is much more apparent, and maybe more fruitful, in sculpture. In the show’s opening gallery, which covers 1902 to 1909, we see him first in capable thrall to Gauguin with a pint-size unfired clay rendering of an old seated woman, whose sensitive face is clearer in a Brassai photograph later in the show. But soon come the double jolts of Iberian and African sculpture, evidenced by a scary little wood idol, carved from what once seems to have been a table leg painted green. Its furious black eyes are the heads of tiny screws.

He also always cut his losses. In this first gallery, the 1909 bronze “Head of a Woman” is powerful as ever, but also more clearly one of the great dead ends in early modernism: a futile attempt to bring the flickering facets of Analytical Cubism, and Cézanne into three dimensions. The future of sculpture lay with Braque’s innovation, Cubist collage.

Goaded by African art, Picasso then arrived at the groundbreaking “Guitar” by coaxing collage’s flat clean shapes into three dimensions. This mirage of hovering planes, voids and shadows in sheets of cutout, darkly rusted ferrous iron is simultaneously a mask, a body and a musical instrument. In addition to breaking open sculptural space, it made self-evident structure almost de rigueur. Next to it hangs its crucial dry run, an exact but radiant replica in creamy paper and paperboard. They preside over the absinthe glass bronzes like proud parents.
Continue reading the main story

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a picture caption with this review misidentified the gallery in which “Bust of a Woman” is displayed. It is the Boisgeloup Sculpture Studio, 1930-32, not the Monument to Apollinaire, 1927-1931.

“Picasso Sculpture” opens Monday and runs through Feb. 7 at the Museum of Modern Art; 212-708-9400, moma.org.

A version of this review appears in print on September 11, 2015, on page C21 of the New York edition with the headline: Picasso in 3-D. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

‘Picasso Sculpture’ Review: A Master’s Genius, in 3-D at the Museum of Modern Art

Picasso rarely hesitated to sell his paintings, but he treasured his sculptures as if they were members of his family.

New York

Almost 50 years have passed since a major exhibition of Picasso’s sculpture appeared in the U.S. The one that just opened at the Museum of Modern Art will be a revelation to everyone who sees it.

‘Woman in the Garden’ (1929-30), by Picasso ENLARGE
‘Woman in the Garden’ (1929-30), by Picasso Photo: Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, New York

Despite Picasso’s fame, his sculpture is one of the best-kept secrets of 20th-century art. Trained as a painter, he rarely hesitated to sell his paintings, but he treasured his sculptures as if they were members of his family and did not agree to a full-scale exhibition of them until 1966, when he was 85.

Picasso’s approach to sculpture differed from that of most of the leading sculptors of his time, such as Alberto Giacometti or Henri Matisse, who cast many of their works in editions of multiple copies for sale. Except for his late, large-scale works, Picasso kept most of his sculptures as unique objects, or cast a single example for his own collection. He hoarded the unique works and peopled his studios and homes with them. Only after his death in 1973 did these sculptures become visible as a part of the collection of the Musée National Picasso in Paris. Even then, the cramped spaces of that historic building prevented successful display of the sculptures.

While paintings can be reproduced with mind-bending precision, a sculptural object must be seen directly to be understood. The curators of “Picasso Sculpture,” Ann Temkin and Anne Umland for MoMA and Virginie Perdrisot for the Musée National Picasso, have presented viewers with a remarkable gift. MoMA has cleared one of its suites of permanent collection galleries so that it can devote 22,000 square feet to the exhibition—twice the space used for the huge show of Matisse’s cut-outs. This exceptional generosity allows each of the 141 sculptures in the exhibition to rest in splendid isolation. Even when crowds fill the galleries, visitors will be able to circulate freely among the sculptures and discern the crucial differences that emerge as the objects are examined from multiple perspectives.

Picasso’s phenomenal creativity is as evident in his sculpture as it is in his paintings and graphics, yet his sculptural imagination stemmed from two fundamental approaches: one based on mass, and the other on planes. Building objects with layers of clay or plaster is deeply rooted in the history of sculpture, so it is not surprising that Picasso first employed that method. “The Jester” (1905), a modeled bronze bust, joins the tradition of the great 19th-century sculptor Auguste Rodin. Over his long career, Picasso transformed this essentially realist art with invented anatomies, such as the metamorphic masses of the series of women’s heads he made in his Boisgeloup studio (1931) and the macabrely disfigured “Death’s Head” (1941), a memento of the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Picasso’s ‘Baboon and Young’ (October 1951).
Picasso’s ‘Baboon and Young’ (October 1951). Photo: Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, NY

For all the physical presence of these sculptures, Picasso’s greatest contributions to the medium lay in the plane. The crossroad was “Head of a Woman” (1909), whose solid form is split by angular cavities and protrusions. But the revolution came with “Still Life With Guitar,” which he made from paper in 1912 and two years later built in a sheet-metal version (the two hang side-by-side in the exhibition). By constructing objects from sheets of paper or metal, Picasso upended tradition. Instead of dense forms, sculpture became a play of structured voids. Instead of a fixed mass, it became articulated space that opened to the surrounding environment. Instead of portraying people, sculpture became an art of things. The progeny of the “Guitar” range across 20th-century art and encompass the installation art so ubiquitous today.

Perhaps even more important, Picasso’s use of common materials immersed his art in the everyday world and broke down boundaries between art and life. Soon he began building works from reclaimed bits of wood, metal and found objects. He crossed the border between painting and sculpture by treating his objects as canvases for colors in works such as the fringe-trimmed “Still Life” (1914). As Picasso said, his goal was to “trick the mind,” rather than simply fool the eye.

Picasso’s creative process never segregated sculpture from painting or any other medium. Nonetheless, MoMA’s segmentation of his production not only allows the museum to showcase these little-known objects, it also highlights issues of Picasso’s career that are most clearly defined in sculpture.

The Picasso who emerges in this exhibition is far from the stereotypes of individualism and self-expression that still largely define popular opinions of his art. Instead we find an artist intent on collaboration and seriously engaging issues of public art.

Two of the finest galleries in the exhibition display the works that set him on this dual course: the airy wire constructions of 1928 that treat space as a palpable entity and the imposing assemblages of cut and found metals, especially “Woman in the Garden” (1929-30), both made with Julio González. All stem from a commission to commemorate his great friend, the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire, and all seek to communicate to everyone Apollinaire’s sweeping, multifarious imagination.

In the final decades of his life, Picasso’s drive to create large-scale public works led to collaborations with everyone from metal fabricators to concrete casters and blasters, and culminated in the monumental head (1967) of Cor-Ten steel that stands in Daley Plaza in Chicago. The delicate maquettes for these sculptures included in the exhibition are fitting descendants of the flimsy paper guitar he made more than 50 years earlier.

Mr. FitzGerald teaches the history of modern and contemporary art at Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.

 

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THE GUARDIAN LONDON

Picasso Sculpture review – a dumbfounding triumph

With its pornographic plasters and bad-mannered bronzes, this thrilling exhibition resets Picasso for a new era. In three dimensions, the artist shocks

Picasso Sculpture
Picasso’s She-Goat, 1950. Photograph: © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Modern art – like Theseus, like Jesus Christ – has two fathers. Dad No 1, arrogant and priapic, is Pablo Picasso: the Spaniard who (with his buddy Braque) violently broke the rules of representation and left 500 years’ worth of western artistic convention in his wake. Dad No 2, understated and suave, is Marcel Duchamp: the Frenchman who bestowed everyday objects with the status of sculptures, and erased the boundary between art and life. Picasso has the largest oeuvre in the modernist canon, with more than 20,000 works to his name; Duchamp has the smallest. Picasso wanted your heart, Duchamp your head.

Art history needs both, of course. But the story of the last 50 years is one in which Picasso, once modern art’s undisputed father figure, has had to accept joint paternity with Duchamp – and lately has seemed to be losing custody altogether. The latter’s irony and ideation undergird almost all of contemporary art, while Picasso’s acts of bigheaded genius can feel passé. The effect is evident among young artists, and young critics too: I have crossed oceans to see Duchamp exhibitions, while for Picasso I sometimes struggle to get on the subway.

Picasso Sculpture
Head of a Warrior, 1933. Photograph: © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

So the greatest compliment I can pay to the exhibition Picasso Sculpture – a dumbfounding triumph that opens next week at the Museum of Modern Art in New York – is that it has made even me, a dyed-in-the-wool Duchampian, into a raving Picassoid. In two dimensions Picasso is so familiar that you can settle into habit. In three, Picasso shocks. This show recasts and revalorises Picasso, especially in his dubious later years, as the exhibition corkscrews from “primitivist” totems to cubist explosions to near-pornographic plasters to bad-mannered bronzes. The works are endlessly surprising, sometimes bracingly and thrillingly ugly, and wittier by far than their complements on canvas or paper. They reset Picasso for a new era: an era whose artists forgot how much he can still teach us.

He’s a painter first. Picasso had no training as a sculptor, and didn’t even have a sculpture studio until he was in his 50s. Nor did he follow sculptural developments of the day. What he did care for, early in his career, were African and Oceanic sculptures, which he encountered day after day in the fusty galleries of Paris’s Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro. African sculpture’s bold, stylised forms were integral to the development of Cubism, and some early sculptures here evince Picasso’s deep love of non-western figuration: a 1908 oak totem has the dimensions of a west African power figure, while a woozily imbalanced head is carved of beech and recalls Pacific statuary.

Picasso Sculpture
Pinterest
Guitar, 1924. Photograph: © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The earliest works here feel safer than the paintings and drawings Picasso was making between 1907 and 1911, starting with the twisted Demoiselles d’Avignon (on view right upstairs from this show) and running through his analytical cubist headscratchers. Then, in 1912–13, comes the thunderclap. Picasso starts experimenting with cardboard, arranging pieces of the humble material into a sort of guitar. It’s mounted on the wall and protrudes only slightly, like a bas-relief. But where western sculpture had been an act of subtracting with a chisel or awl, Picasso’s guitar is formed, revolutionarily, by adding pieces together. And where bas-reliefs present a single perspective, Picasso’s guitar has gone haywire. Half of the body is absent, and the sound-hole has been transformed from an absence to a protruding cylinder. The front and back soundboards don’t line up. The body and the void are one, simulation is dead and buried, and sculpture will never be the same.

In this show we see both the initial cardboard variant and a later metal example, and both display not only the faceted compositional style familiar from his painting, but also the force and the stateliness of the African achievements Picasso learned from. They appear in the second gallery of this large show, and here you’ll also find the exhibition’s greatest coup – his absinthe glasses of 1914, made in an edition of six and reunited here for the first time since. These small, syncopated works are marvels of transubstantiation: the liquid in the glasses becomes solid form, while the transparent glass is rendered into opaque brown or even red and blue speckles. Each is topped with a real absinthe spoon, too: a wink at his contemporary collages.

Picasso Sculpture
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Glass of Absinthe, 1914. Photograph: © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Then the first world war intervenes. No sculpture from 1915 to 1927. When Picasso returns to three dimensions, he’s moved into a multiplicity of media and a multiplicity of styles. Wiry, iron drawings-in-space stand beside flowing, biomorphic bronzes. His slaphappy Woman in the Garden, from 1929-30, welds thin rods and panels of white-painted iron into a sparking assemblage that, from several angles, look like a hysterical chicken. Before the war, Picasso was asking What is a sculpture?, interrogating the medium with the same rigour he brought to his painterly experiments. After the war, and for the rest of his life, he barely cares about sculpture as a medium per se. The sculpture studio (he gets one at last in 1930) becomes a free zone, a place for even broader, more uncontrolled experimentation than the easel.

Those of us on team Duchamp can get very huffy about this later Picasso, and I have never had much use for his endless Velázquez quotations and garish 1960s nudes. Much of the later sculpture, too, is straight-up awful. The worst are the bronzes from the 1950s, of a girl skipping rope or a woman pushing a bottlecap-faced baby in a pram, are almost comically tasteless. There’s a squat, pockmarked bronze of a baboon with an extended tail and a face composed, no joke, from a toy car. Yet unlike in the high-stakes realm of modern painting, where Picasso’s egotistical late swerve can get you down, in the somewhat freer terrain of sculpture even the bombs feel worthwhile. They’re the product of an artist who still, that late in the game, was figuring out just what he wanted to do.

Picasso Sculpture
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Baboon and Young, 1951. Photograph: © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

And over and over, Picasso kept hitting the heights even as he got lost. There are the lascivious plaster busts of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, astounding things in which noses turn into phalluses. There are the semiotic riddles of the war years: the glorious bull’s head made from a bicycle seat and handlebars, and a burner from a gas stove flipped 90 degrees, like a standing figure. (It’s the closest Picasso ever got to a Duchampian readymade, though the title, The Venus of Gas, turns it into a paleolithic fertility goddess. And the associations with the stoves burning elsewhere in Europe until 1945 are unshakable.) Earthenware vases indebted to Minoan pottery have an unexpected humility, as do late, great wooden bathers, flat totems whose bodies are formed, in two cases, from empty picture frames.

This is the most significant exhibition of Picasso’s sculpture since the artist’s death in 1973, and many works here have never been seen in the United States before. (More than a third comes from the Musée Picasso in Paris – newly reopened, though not before some major personnel upheaval.) The curators, Ann Temkin and Anne Umland, have bagged some astounding loans, most importantly the absinthe glasses, and have made numerous shrewd calls on presentation. The show is installed, unusually, on MoMA’s fourth floor: Temkin and Umland have flushed away the entire postwar permanent collection to take advantage of its smaller galleries and lower ceilings. They’ve placed everything except the wall reliefs in the middle of the galleries, so you can see each work in the round. Best and bravest of all, the curators have omitted wall text for individual works: it’s just you and the sculpture, in a space that feels like a new museum. A new museum that has unearthed a new Picasso.

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Reviews

MoMA’s ‘Picasso Sculpture’ Retrospective Is a Revelatory, Witty Triumph

Pablo Picasso, Bull, ca. 1958, Cannes, plywood, tree branch, nails, and screws, 46⅛" x 56¾" x 4⅛". ©2015 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, GIFT OF JACQUELINE PICASSO IN HONOR OF THE MUSEUM’S CONTINUOUS COMMITMENT TO PABLO PICASSO’S ART

“Picasso Sculpture,” now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is by turns staggering, intimate, revelatory, radiant, witty, and leisurely paced. Spanning a 60-year period, the show features 140 works, both large and small, reed thin and exaggeratedly rotund, that were cast in bronze, welded in iron, modeled in plaster, carved in wood, folded from sheet metal, and assembled from all sorts of flotsam and jetsam. Ordinarily, museumgoers gasp over paintings executed by this protean artist during his astonishing 80-year career. This time you’re going to hear a lot of oohs and aahs in front of his inventive three-dimensional works. Only the third retrospective ever devoted to Picasso’s sculpture, it is spaciously installed in the permanent collection galleries on the fourth floor.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar, 1924, Paris, painted sheet metal, painted tin box, and iron wire, 43¾" × 25" × 10½". ©2015 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/MUSÉE NATIONAL PICASSO, PARIS

Every room tells a different story. The show opens in 1902, when Picasso was 21 and living in Barcelona. He’d already been to Paris and was about to return there. At art school in Madrid, he had become familiar with the touchstones of Greek statuary from plaster casts; now he was looking at contemporary masters like Auguste Rodin, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, and even André Derain. By the end of this brief period, the Spanish-born artist was melding tradition and innovation, a leitmotif of his career as a sculptor. Never wavering in his commitment to recognizable imagery, he transformed his subjects and themes with different materials and techniques as well as a range of styles. At first, he was tentative; later, he went full throttle. In 1909, for example, when he modeled Head of a Woman—Fernande, his companion—as well as Apple, he merely broke up their surfaces with faceted, Cubist planes.

Step into the next gallery, where Cubism holds sway, and you’ll find works by Picasso from 1912–15 that altered the history of sculpture. With sheet metal, tin plate, iron wire, nails, and scraps of wood, he created a life-size guitar, violins, a mandolin, a clarinet, and drinking glasses that elevated the stature of still life to a subject as worthy as portrait heads and standing figures. The vivid colors with which the artist completed these Cubist reliefs and small objects are as important as the unusual materials he used.Pablo Picasso, Glass of Absinthe, 1914, Paris, painted bronze with absinthe spoon, 8½" x 6½" x 3⅜". ©2015 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, GIFT OF LOUISE REINHARDT SMITH

During the spring of 1914, Picasso also cast in bronze a series of six “Glasses of Absinthe” that have been reunited for the first time since they left his studio. Except for one that was left in its raw state, he painted all the others with different patterns and pigments. As visual puns, each absinthe glass sports a pair of eyes and a wide mouth beneath a jaunty “hat” that, formed from an actual absinthe spoon topped by a bronze sugar cube, resembles the type of straw boater worn by the French entertainer Maurice Chevalier.

Unlike in his life as a painter, Picasso made sculpture sporadically. But there was a method to these episodic forays. He seems to have been inspired to work in three dimensions at the birth of distinct art movements that he had a hand in launching. He didn’t execute another extended body of three-dimensional works until 1928 when he was commissioned to make a memorial for the grave of his close friend the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who died during the great influenza epidemic of 1918. With iron rods, he created three versions of a charioteer. Their linear character and open spaces call to mind classic, monochromatic Cubist paintings of 1911–12. If you picture Picasso making a line drawing of, say, the robe and vertical axis of the Charioteer of Delphi, you’ll see how, yet again, the classically trained artist melded tradition and innovation.Pablo Picasso, Woman in the Garden,1929–30, Paris, welded and painted iron, 6' 9⅛" × 46⅛" × 33⅜". ©2015 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/MUSÉE NATIONAL PICASSO, PARIS

This time, Picasso remained active as a sculptor. During the heady days of Surrealism’s reign in Paris, between 1929–35, the Spanish-born painter responded by creating some of his most memorable works in three dimensions as well as a series of astonishing graphite drawings on fine-textured woven paper of imaginary standing and seated women. Readily accepted as a colleague by André Breton, the pope of Surrealism, Picasso developed aspects of his Cubist sculptures that related to the tenets of the latest art-world sensation.

Having earlier worked with unlikely materials, Picasso now realized he could make larger, more fully in-the-round heads and figures. To assist with welding colanders, other objects, and scraps of old iron into unique sculptures as convincing as statues, he enlisted Julio Gonzalez, a fellow Spaniard. Three of their masterpieces reign in their own gallery. Woman in a Garden (ca. 1930–32), one of the masterpieces of this period, indeed of Picasso’s entire corpus, could not be more fetching, an adjective not often applied to the plastic arts. With her hair blowing in the breeze and her animated pose, she seems propelled toward some sort of tryst.Pablo Picasso, Head of a Warrior, 1933, Boisgeloup, plaster, metal, and wood, 47½" x 9¾" x 27". ©2015 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, GIFT OF JACQUELINE PICASSO IN HONOR OF THE MUSEUM’S CONTINUOUS COMMITMENT TO PABLO PICASSO’S ART

The next gallery is dominated by astonishing taut, white plaster heads of women on a gargantuan scale. Yet again, Picasso looked to the past—in this instance, classical Greece—while being very much of his time. I’ve always imagined rods like those used to create the earlier charioteers to have formed the armatures of these elegant behemoths. One reason these works are so impressive is that Picasso had been thinking about how to create them for a very long time. During 1920 and 1921, he made a group of pastels and paintings with figures that had massive, pneumatic-like bodies. At this moment, he had the ability to translate this idea into three-dimensions.

As you enter the fifth space, which is dedicated to the years 1933–37, Woman with a Vase (1933), another magnificent work, metaphorically lights the way for your tour of the second half of this breathtaking retrospective. She’s a knockout who once stood in proximity to Guernica in the Spanish Loyalist Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair of 1937. She, more than the iron-rod charioteers, looks as if she would have made a fitting memorial to Apollinaire.Not surprisingly, during the war years Picasso’s sculptures are less adventurous. But from time to time, he rose to the occasion with works where the subject matter is emphasized to a greater degree than stylistic concerns. You’ll find the painful Death’s Head (1941) as well as the impressive Man with a Lamb (1943), which reminds us how innocent people are slaughtered as battles rage.Pablo Picasso, She-Goat, 1950, Vallauris, bronze. 46⅜" x 56⅜" x 28⅛".©2015 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO/ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK/THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, MRS. SIMON GUGGENHEIM FUND

After the war, Picasso’s sculptures take on a childlike aspect. He seems to be making three-dimensional objects as if he were playing with toys. He’s having fun with ceramics. He celebrates pregnancy by portraying a woman with a ceramic vessel for a belly and two for breasts. He introduces a now-beloved menagerie, including the popular She-Goat (1950) and Baboon and Young (1951), which has a head formed from model cars. And there are the magisterial “Bathers” who stand in a pool of pebbles.

The show closes with a flourish. Like a magician at a kids party, Picasso folded sheet metal into heads, women with outstretched arms, and chairs. You leave the show entertained and exhilarated and wondering why you hadn’t realized how Picasso, time and again, changed the course of the history of sculpture.

Copyright 2015, ARTnews Ltd, 40 W 25th Street, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10010. All rights reserved.

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September 9, 2015 2:54 p.m.

How Picasso the Sculptor Ruptured Art History

By

Pablo Picasso, Chair Cannes, 1961. Musée National Picasso–Paris. 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

On October 9, 1912, Pablo Picasso wrote a letter to Georges Braque, his confrere in Cubism, whom he later derided as “my wife” and who, for his part, described himself and Picasso as “two mountaineers roped together.” “I am in the process of imagining a guitar,” Picasso wrote — a line that still sends shivers. He went on to declare that, after their summer working together in the South of France, he was hijacking two of the biggest artistic ideas of the century: collage and three-dimensional assemblage. Both would change the landscape of art: Via collage, painting took on a more physical body, changing its spatial presence forever; assemblage did all this, too, but in even more varied materials and space, a technique so radical that it essentially remapped the boundaries of painting, bas-relief, molding, and sculpture. Both ideas were Braques’s! As Picasso himself said, “Great artists steal.” Or as Matisse put it after a studio visit from Picasso, “He will put it all to good use in time.”

We don’t think of Picasso as a sculptor, but we should. He was a great one. In the years after that summer with Braque, Picasso performed a vivisection of 500 years of Western spatial perspective. For much of the 19th century, artists like Constable, Corot, Courbet, Manet, and many others tried to break the rigid illusionistic strictures and the structure of vaunted Renaissance perspective. Yet no matter what artists did, including Monet — breaking down every brushstroke into a physical thing that functioned at once as a mark and a picture, each one being absolutely equal to every other stroke, all but doing away with illusionistic space altogether — still, the borders and surfaces of the object reasserted themselves. With collage and assemblage, Picasso finally jarred space from a kind of 500-year sleeping sickness, a system that had silted up, impeded, and confined vision. With these works, Picasso broke forever from Renaissance tradition into modernist, Einsteinian relativity, the paradoxical space where things exist in different dimensions at once. It’s important to remember, of course, that Renaissance perspective was maniacally practiced only in the West. In Asia, Africa, and most of the rest of the world, systematic illusionistic space never caught on. In the West, however, Picasso (and the others) set space free.

Now, for the first time since the Museum of Modern Art’s epic 1967 “The Sculpture of Picasso,” MoMA returns to this fertile delta with more than 150 of his slabbed, shattering, avian-shaped, hallucinogenically assembled sculptures. This is a fantastic show. The work in this exhibition represents a macro evolution in the history of art, and at MoMA, you will see objects that look like loofahs shellacked with tough nuggets and nettles; vertebrae forms; craniums that look like crustaceans; dolls and Roman soldiers that might be from the Crab Nebula; iron-cage works that go off like slow fuses, morphing into movies, maps, and sliding diagrams. I found myself constantly having to catch my breath, reassessing what I thought about Picasso’s sculptures, even seeing a lot of what I thought were clunkers as packing information that scores of artists are still putting to good use. (One abstract cast of a crumpled paper bag basically gives rise to artists like Jean Debuffet and movements like Art Informel and Tachisme.) Whatever you do, don’t miss this exhibition; this is exactly the kind of show MoMA is made for. Museum co-curators Ann Temkin and Anne Umland (with Virginie Perdrisot) make MoMA’s fourth-floor galleries look more beautiful and useful than they have ever looked. Linger in these spaces; the chance won’t come again for a long time. “Picasso Sculpture” could be one of the great learning experiences of your seeing life.

Above all, this show lets you know in your bones that beneath it all, Picasso’s art was always sculptural — always structural, architectural, and tectonically imagined first. Picture the shapes and planes of his Cubist paintings as cut up and pieced back together as sculptures. Or traditional sculpture and objects crushed into bas reliefs, then given more dimension. That is virtually what he did. “It would have sufficed,” he said, “to cut up [the Cubist paintings] — the colors being no more than indications of difference in perspective, of planes … and then assemble them … [as] sculpture.” At another time, he said he analyzed “form into separate geometric components … presenting simultaneously several views of the same object as though the spectator were walking around it or turning it over in his own hands.” It is so wildly revolutionary that it makes you wish that artists like Tintoretto and El Greco had tried this centuries ago! Or reversed the process, and we would have seen Bernini tectonically flattened.

At MoMA, you will see all these separate components — faceted shapes, tectonic plains, abstract forms, axiomatic lines, and more — in sculptures that all point to undiscovered dimensions. But not in the first gallery. The figurative works here, from 1902 through 1909, are really just Picasso turning the key in the sculptural ignition; assimilating Degas, Maillol, and Matisse; African, Oceanic, and early Iberian sculpture, seeing what he can put “to good use.” The primitive-looking wooden totemlike objects have nowhere near the force of the Kongo power figures with hundreds of nails hammered into the surface that predate them; they look as if they might have been made by Gauguin, but lack his sense of decorative flatness. Or elsewhere, since Rodin did smushed female forms, so does Picasso. Still, two pieces from 1909 vibrate with a more pressing tension. The first, a small plaster Apple, which looks like a Chinese cube puzzle carved by Cézanne. It clues you in — despite not being an especially convincing sculpture — to the simultaneity that Picasso is after, as the apple looks like it is changing shapes and being seen from several perspectives at once. The other is the solid bronze Head of a Woman, whose angled, sluicing protrusions radiate the drama of two-dimensional Cubism that is already happening in his paintings and is about to detonate into sculptural space. But the bust is still leaden, bound to a space and governed by a gravity that are about to give way.

The rupture comes in the next galleries. Categories prolapse in constructed, cut, painted, assembled, and cast works that might be bas-relief, paintings, sculptures, all of the above, or none at all. You’re seeing something never seen before, yet Picasso does it with such utter clarity that you can feel the scales fall from your eyes. And even think, I could do this. Ponder the incomprehensibly influential guitars. For the first time in the history of Western sculpture, the inside, or the hollowness, of form is depicted — here, the hole of the guitar becomes an object with space and illusion all at once. Imagine Michelangelo’s David somehow also revealing chest cavity and organs flip-flopping and interfacing with the outer surfaces, seeing this beautiful boy from behind and in front at once. The guitars represent a new kind of illusion and a new realness in sculpture simultaneously, where the object comes to self-explanatory life and negative space isn’t a void anymore. In the same astounding gallery are the famous absinthe glasses, which do the same things but in more compact scale, using curves, torque, and twists, exploring different material states and gravity in ways that push dimensional limits into something like the uncanny. Are we really seeing these things from all sides — including the liquid — at the same time? The same thing is happening in the guitars.

Opportunistic superpredator that he was, when Picasso took, he took fast. Between that October 1912 letter to Braque and December 3 that year, he made paperboard, string, and painted-wire guitars, each of which exists in a spectrum of different non-narrative spaces at once. By 1915, in addition to groundbreaking collages, Picasso fashioned more guitars out of sheet metal, paper, wood, nails, string, canvas, and painted wire paper. Three of them are here. And still radioactive. These works change the sculptural game. The guitars are what Donald Judd later called “specific objects”: neither conventional sculpture nor musical instruments, but something else. (In fact, let’s use “something else” as one of the definitions of art.) At the same time, the guitars also seem to contain interior dimensions never before probed in sculpture. By 1915, there’s the splayed-open violin that lets you see the inside, outside, and left and right sides of the object at once. You think, Yes! He’s doing with sculpture what he does in paintings: finding a way to see breasts, anus, vulva, eyes, buttocks, belly button, and mouth at the same time! Picasso’s sculpture so encompasses this strange all-at-once dimension that today, flatfish with eyes on the same side of their heads are called “Picasso fish.”

In the middle of this gallery are the six painted bronze absinthe glasses, each with a real sugar spoon, each cast from an identical wax mold. Every one of them looks different; I have no idea how. They’re almost too much to deal with. Each comes to cartoonish life, at once slabbed and angular, Neolithic and modern. Here you witness the interior interweaving and untwining of form, temporal shifts, visual glitches, the force of an imagination dancing. Picasso decants the absinthe, lets you see the glass and through it. The liquid substance transforms into a decorated vessel, then slush, solid, translucent, polka-dotted plasma, all while appearing malleable, in changing states, or freezing. The sugar cube on the spoon turns into a boulder, a minimalist sculpture, and part of a pyramid about to be dropped into this vast alchemical caldron. Fins on the glass might be vestigial body parts, cooling devices, or mating plumage; spirals are really flanges; balance is impossible. Is the cup tilting? Twisting? Stable? Serving itself? We simultaneously behold this twisty thing from above, below, left, and right. In this gallery, Picasso’s works create the sculptural equivalent of what is known in geometry as a tesseract, ­a four-dimensional analogue of a cube, or a hypercube, which some speculate would, if entered in one place — say, MoMA — deposit you under the ocean or in another dimension. Whatever’s happening here, that’s what happened to art in 1912: It started in one place and ended in another.

After this outburst, there was sculptural silence from Picasso for almost a decade. The show picks up again in 1928, with two small, curvaceous bronze shapes that could be a woman running on a beach as you see the thunder of the Cubist guitars made more pliable, organic, sensual. Make a mental note; they foreshadow something spectacular to come. In fact, almost everything in this gallery is stuff that Picasso will put to real use further along.

The next gallery gave me whiplash. And got me hot. This space is a bacchanalian garden of voluptuous, abstract female forms made between 1930 and 1937. Here are new hieroglyphic shapes becoming faces, heads, breasts, mouths, vulvae — pendulous forms that are so unphilosophical and distorted that they become concretions of garrulous, graceful, free-flowing, libidinous meaning. This work doesn’t fit into any other concurrent movement of the time; Picasso is off the sculptural reservation here. Biographer John Richardson tells us that the woman Picasso was picturing was his “greatest sexual passion.” Her name is Marie-Thérèse Walter. Picasso spotted her when she emerged from the Paris Metro on January 8, 1927. Instantly smitten, he approached, proclaiming, “I’m Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together.” She’d never heard of him and was 17; he was 45 and married. So began a ten-year frenzied secret affair that cast Picasso as consuming monster, inflictor of abject cruelty (she was “a slice of melon” which he “denied … orgasm”). It is in these sculptures (and paintings of this period) that Picasso’s art gets fleshier and more organic, as he claims a larger part of himself and catapults himself from Cubism forever.

Many academics pooh-pooh this and much that follows in Picasso’s work. It’s true: At this point, he does break with modernist teleological progress, and certainly with Cubism; most of what comes next doesn’t fit neatly anywhere art-historically. Only in Picasso-ism. And he produced epic amounts of art, much of it not that good or even very avant-garde-looking. Yet it’s squeamish and persnickety to limit the greatness of Picasso to just Cubism and a few other high points. In this gallery, you see art that is blissed-out, brutal, Greek, goofy, a genus of modern Venuses rendered in new formal topographies. With Matisse, Miro, Calder, and others, Picasso is paving the way for much of the biomorphic abstraction used by artists all over the world ever since. The busts of Marie-Thérèse are a real depiction of how love deforms. They’re the ones I’d want in my inner museum. They also lead directly to the desexualized screaming faces and tortured forms of Guernica (1937). The curators also provide a great insider finger-wag at and lesson about Picasso the psycho pirate. Installed in the center of this gallery is the bronze Reclining Bather (1931). This work comes directly out of all Matisse’s much-earlier nudes. Placed here, it is a reminder that, though Matisse was never this animally sexual, without his incredible lifelong influence, many reckon that there’d be no continually reforming (a.k.a. catching up) Picasso. That’s how thorough these curators are.

There’s so much more: galleries packed with uncovered information for artists and viewers, single works that can detonate into whole careers. Please visit this exhibit more than once; every gallery is a world unto itself that deserves attention. And before you leave the show, think about where it is in the museum. And why. All other rotating shows have been elsewhere at MoMA, in temporary galleries. While many museum visitors might protest the absence of the usual masterpieces on this floor, we must be grateful that MoMA undertook the gargantuan task of totally dismantling the fourth-floor permanent collection for the Picasso show. The ceilings and spaces of the second- and sixth-floor galleries would have overwhelmed, dwarfed, and distracted from this work. Other spaces at MoMA are too small. And composite cement floors would have been wrong. Temkin and Umland’s Picasso show points to a way through MoMA’s spatial problems, suggesting that these galleries don’t always have to be static with teleologically installed masterpieces from the enormous collection. Instead, they can be used for continual experimenting with the greatest collection of Modernism on Earth, opening that collection up, letting the world see just how incredible MoMA really is, and perhaps helping to heal a multitude of sins. This Picasso show lets us see things we hadn’t dreamed of before. All while seeing an artist edging into undiscovered spaces, interstices between flatness and dimensionality, spaces that are at once ancient Egyptian, clear, and Mesopotamian in insistence. Picasso lifts a veil. I might still want to live with a Matisse, but “Picasso Sculpture” lets us know that space — even MoMA’s — really has a wide wingspan.

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HYPERALLERGIC

Photo Essays

Pablo Picasso, Now in 3D

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Sylvette" (1954) at left and "Little Horse" (1961) at right (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

It’s hard to get excited for another Pablo Picasso exhibition. He is, after all, the Steven Spielberg of European modernism — flashy, prolific, proficient at a vast range of genres, and overrepresented in the mainstream cultural canon. But Picasso Sculpture, the Museum of Modern Art‘s (MoMA) first exhibition since the late 1960s devoted to the master painter and collageist’s three-dimensional works, is an opportunity to discover a relatively obscure part of his practice. Save a handful of exceptions, Picasso kept his sculptures to himself until the penultimate decade of his life, and even now only certain types of works are widely circulated: the Cubist still lifes, the plaster busts of women, the bronze and wood assemblages derived from his encounters with African art. These works figure prominently in Picasso Sculpture, but so do his incredibly fine and playful ceramic vases of the late 1940s and early ’50s, the somber bronzes he made living through World War II in Paris, and the funny, whimsical plaster and wood sculptures of the mid ’30s. While so much of Picasso’s two-dimensional work has been rendered static by its status as seminal art history, many of the sculptures in this show are refreshingly surprising and inventive.

One of Pablo Picasso's "Glass of Absinthe" painted bronze sculptures from 1914, all six of which are included in 'Picasso Sculpture'

The exhibition’s roughly 140 works are arranged in mostly chronological order across 10 rooms on MoMA’s fourth floor. Each gallery is devoted to works produced during one specific bout of sculptural production. Unlike his continuous two-dimensional output, Picasso went long stretches without making sculpture and then would apply himself to working intensely with one type of imagery, style, or material for a few years. A room off the “War Years” gallery features a small presentation of 24 photographs Brassaï took in Picasso’s studio in 1932 and 1943, offering a sense of how he lived with the works spread across every available surface.

Controversially — at least for those easily offended by unorthodox exhibition design — there are no wall labels in the show. Each visitor must arm herself with a 24-page booklet that lists the vital stats for each work. Speaking at Wednesday’s press preview, MoMA’s chief curator and the co-curator of Picasso Sculpture, Ann Temkin, explained that conventional wall texts would have been impractical and confusing, requiring visitors to continually zig-zag from the pedestals and display cases to the gallery walls and back, while the booklet allows them to get and stay nose-to-nose with the works. And there are plenty of small, intricate pieces that benefit from close and sustained inspection.

Pablo Picasso, "Woman with Leaves" (1934)

What’s most startling about Picasso’s sculptures is how, for the most part, they do not seem to have aged. All those Cubist collages and blue period portraits may look like relics of the last century, but pieces like the tiny plaster figure “Woman with Leaves” from 1934 — whose dress was made by pressing corrugated cardboard into wet plaster and whose face resembles an ancestor of the beloved robot Johnny 5 from Short Circuit — or the group of five small, wand-like wooden sculptures of standing and seated women from 1930 — evocative of outsider art but also Alberto Giacometti and Louise Bourgeois’s many totemic or needle-shaped sculptures — look like they could have been made last year.

The rooms devoted to bodies of work made between 1933 and 1937 and between 1945 and 1953 are especially rich in such seemingly ageless works. One rarely seen group, installed in a display case in the latter room, is a set of nine small pebbles, bone fragments, and chunks of ceramic into which Picasso engraved faces. The tiny works’ lines and features are very sharp and elegant, but the unconventional, improvisational choice of medium and method epitomize what makes Picasso’s sculptures so interesting. He was never formally trained in three-dimensional art making, as he was in painting, and it shows in both his willingness to break with tradition and convention, and his tendency to delve into practices like bronze casting, welding, and carving as he learned to master them. This resulted in some of the wonderfully strange, funny, and enduring works that make this show so worthwhile.

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "The Jester" (1905)

Pablo Picasso's "Seated Woman" (1902) is the earliest work in 'Picasso Sculpture'

Pablo Picasso, "Still Life" (1914)

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Head of a Woman" (1929–30) at left and "Woman in the Garden" (1929–30) at right

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Head of a Woman" (1931, cement) at left and "Head of a Woman" (1931, plaster) at right

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "The Reaper" (ca. 1934) at left and "The Orator" (1933–34) at right

Pablo Picasso, "An Anatomy: Three Women" (1933)

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Death's Head" (1941) at left and "Man with Lamb" (1943) at right

Pablo Picasso, "Woman in Long Dress" (1943)

Pablo Picasso, "Cat" (1941)

Installation view of photographs by Brassaï of Pablo Picasso's Paris studio in 1932 and 1943

Installation view of Pablo Picasso's small engraved pebble and ceramic works in 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Pregnant Woman" (1950) at left and "Pregnant Woman" (1949) at right

Installation view of Pablo Picasso's ceramic works from between 1945 and 1953 in 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art

Pablo Picasso, "Insect" (1951)

Pablo Picasso, "Little Owl" (1951–52)

Pablo Picasso, "Woman Carrying a Child" (1953)

Pablo Picasso, "Goat Skull with Bottle" (1951)

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Woman with a Baby Carriage" (1950–54) in the foreground

Detail of Pablo Picasso's "Baboon and Young" (1951)

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of 'Picasso Sculpture' at the Museum of Modern Art with Pablo Picasso's "Woman with Outstretched Arms" (1961) at left and the exhibition's latest work, "Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture" (1964), at right

Picasso Sculpture opens September 14 at the Museum of Modern Art (11 West 53rd Street, Midtown, Manhattan) and continues through February 7, 2015.

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

MoMA Explores Picasso in the Round

WSJ goes inside the installation of the blockbuster exhibition ‘Picasso Sculpture’

 

Just outside the closed fourth-floor galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, normally home to works from MoMA’s postwar collection, museum guards have been diplomatically turning away visitors on the hunt for masterpieces like Jackson Pollock’s “One: Number 31” and Jasper Johns’s “Flag.”

MoMA is temporarily rearranging itself to make room—a lot of room—for an artist who, perhaps more than any other, has helped shape the museum through the decades: Pablo Picasso.

Opening Sept. 14, “Picasso Sculpture” will occupy the museum’s entire fourth floor, in a show exploring the artist’s work in three dimensions. MoMA is the only venue for the exhibition, the largest U.S. presentation of his sculptures in nearly a half-century.

Given the Spaniard’s profound influence on 20th- and even 21st-century art, and the stratospheric prices his paintings can command at auction, it would be a stretch to describe any aspect of his work as under-the-radar. But if there were a candidate for that distinction, it would be the sculpture, which hasn’t received nearly the same number of dedicated exhibitions as his paintings.

Trained as a painter but self-taught as a sculptor, Picasso made three-dimensional work throughout his career, but intermittently, with lapses that sometimes lasted years.

“The restless imagination of this artist, the almost crazy sense of invention, comes through in the sculpture like nowhere else,” said Ann Temkin, MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculpture, and co-curator of the exhibition, which runs through Feb. 7, 2016. “He’s making it up as he goes along.”

According to Diana Widmaier-Picasso, an art historian and granddaughter of the artist who is preparing a multivolume catalog raisonné of the sculpture, he made more than 2,000 three-dimensional works, a number that includes editions—multiple identical works cast or otherwise reproduced from the same mold or template—but excludes his ceramics.

Bronze, plaster, terra-cotta, cardboard, cement and wood are just some of the more than two dozen mediums and materials represented in the show—not to mention found objects ranging from upholstery fringe to bicycle parts to kitchen colanders.

The show is organized into eight chronological chapters. Opening with Picasso’s early experiments in clay, bronze and wood, it quickly progresses to early cubist sculptures, like the 1909 bronze “Head of a Woman” and a beguiling little plaster apple, before vaulting into the constructions and assemblages of the early teens.

Pablo Picasso, next to one of his sculptures. ENLARGE
Pablo Picasso, next to one of his sculptures. Photo: Bunk/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Innovations of the later 1920s and early ’30s include fanciful found-object collages and the wire sculptures that Picasso’s dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, dubbed “drawings in space.”

The postwar decades saw Picasso ensconced on the French Riviera, where everything from beach pebbles to sheet metal became raw material for his work.

“We hope that every single room in this exhibition is like discovering a different artist,” said co-curator Anne Umland, curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA.

To do justice to the approximately 140 sculptures on view, Ms. Temkin and Ms. Umland made a radical decision: Wherever possible, each free-standing sculpture would be displayed for 360-degree viewing. And no paintings—sculpture only.

Their mission, said Ms. Temkin: “To give sculpture its first-class status.”

That takes space. At about 22,000 square feet, the exhibition’s footprint is approximately twice that of last autumn’s “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” which drew some 724,000 visitors. And it isn’t necessarily because the sculptures are huge—many are surprisingly modest in scale.

Conservators look over items from Pablo Picasso's ‘Bathers’ sculptures during the installation of the ‘Picasso Sculpture’ exhibition at MoMA. ENLARGE
Conservators look over items from Pablo Picasso’s ‘Bathers’ sculptures during the installation of the ‘Picasso Sculpture’ exhibition at MoMA. Photo: Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

“Picasso Sculpture” is likely to be as popular as the Matisse show, if not more so, but its generous space allotment brings a welcome bonus: no timed ticketing. However, there may be queuing and controlled entry during peak hours.

Late last month, the fourth floor was a work in progress, with custom pedestals in place and crafted-to-scale replicas—some flat and photographic, others three-dimensional—standing in for much of the art.

Although the curators had assigned the works to specific galleries, final placement within in each room has been an organic process, Ms. Temkin said. For example, “Bathers,” a group of life-size, playful sculptures from 1956, has been moved twice in pursuit of the most effective sight lines. In its final spot, it is the first thing visitors see when they enter the penultimate room.

Eleven of the works in “Picasso Sculpture” hail from MoMA’s own collection, including perennial favorites like the 1950 “She-Goat” and 1951 “Baboon and Young.”

That leaves about 130 sculptures coming from other institutions and private collections internationally—and a delivery schedule resembling a military campaign, with the last pieces arriving just a few days ahead of the exhibition previews. Many required personal couriers, a logistical challenge during late-summer vacation time, especially in France.

Pablo Picasso’s ‘She-Goat’ sculpture. ENLARGE
Pablo Picasso’s ‘She-Goat’ sculpture. Photo: Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Some 50 sculptures and eight works on paper come from the Musée national Picasso-Paris, along with 24 images of Picasso’s sculptures taken by the photographer Brassaï in the 1930s and 1940s.

Because the artist kept so many of his sculptures until he died, and left no will, the Musée, a state institution established after his death, received many of those works in lieu of estate tax, with the remainder going largely to family members. The Musée is collaborating with MoMA on the exhibition.

In the galleries, the willingness to give each work its elbow room was apparent. In the second room, for instance, the 1914 “Glass of Absinthe”—an edition of six bronzes, each distinctively hand-painted—is dramatically showcased, each of the works on its own pedestal with several feet of viewing space between them.

A few galleries farther on, a flat maquette, or replica, of the 1942 bronze “Bull’s Head” claimed an entire wall. Despite the work’s modest dimensions, the curators had no fear of the real thing being dwarfed by its backdrop. “It’s that imposing,” said Ms. Temkin.

Ms. Umland concurred: “It has a force field.”

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THE ART NEWSPAPER LONDON

Picasso’s great ingenuity as a sculptor revealed by MoMA

Pablo Picasso Near his Sculpture Goat With Bottle May 7, 1953 © AGIP / Bridgeman Images

Pablo Picasso Near his Sculpture Goat With Bottle May 7, 1953 © AGIP / Bridgeman Images

The “Great Man” theory of history is out of fashion these days; we no longer believe that an individual act of heroism can be the chief engine of development. But how else can we make sense of Pablo Picasso, who seems to have invented everything? The Spanish painter had help (Henri Matisse, Georges Braque), but his stature remains singular.

Yet Picasso the sculptor is a relative unknown, especially in the US, where the last show of his sculptural work was held in 1967 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. It included 204 pieces, around 90% of which came from the artist’s own collection.

Now, the museum returns to Picasso’s sculpture with a show of around 150 works made over the course of his career. The curatorial logic behind the show is simple, says the co-curator, Ann Temkin, “to show that sculpture is a core part of Picasso’s career and that it hasn’t thoroughly been looked at in an exhibition in the United States in 50 years.”

Sculpture “says so much about him as an artist”, she says. “A view of Picasso as a painter or a maker of works on paper is really an incomplete view.”
Picasso’s ingenuity is evident everywhere in his sculpture. “It’s almost as if you’re looking at work by different artists each time,” says the exhibition’s co-curator Anne Umland. “He is always setting up and solving new sculptural challenges. His engagement with sculpture happened periodically and in very clear chapters.”

The show will take over the museum’s entire fourth floor, giving each piece sufficient space so that it can be appreciated in-the-round. Around 50 of the works come from the Musée national Picasso in Paris and additional loans are due from the Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other institutions.

“Standard art history texts put so much emphasis on the breakthrough decade and the rest is treated as later work,” Temkin says. (Picasso’s most inventive period is generally considered to have been between 1907 and 1914.) “But with Picasso’s sculpture, it revs up and becomes a larger and larger part of his work.” Umland says she was particularly surprised by his work of the 1950s. “There is a wide range of materials and subjects from those years, from tiny pebbles to large-scale assemblages held together by plaster and wood, to his deep engagement with pottery and ceramics,” she says. “He had a way of looking at the world in terms of its sculptural development.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue written by Temkin, Umland, Virginie Perdrisot (the sculpture and ceramics curator at Musée Picasso) and Luise Mahler (an assistant curator at MoMA). In addition, a children’s book written by the museum’s curatorial assistant Nancy Lim and illustrated by Beatrice Alemagna will be published.

The show is sponsored chiefly by Hyundai Card, Monique M. Schoen Warshaw, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, Robert Menschel and Janet Wallach and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III. MoMA is the sole venue.

• Picasso Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 14 September-7 February 2016

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