Gallery View: Picasso in Toronto
Pablo Picasso, "Deux femmes courant sur la plage (La Course) (Two Women Running on the Beach [The Race])", 1922. Pablo Picasso gift-in-lieu, 1979, MP78 Musee National Picasso, Paris.
Picasso Estate SODRAC (2012): copyright RMN/Jean-Gilles Berizzi
“Give me a museum and I’ll fill it,” Pablo Picasso once boasted. The Musée National Picasso in Paris is proof that he meant it, and the current traveling exhibition of works from that collection now at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario gives mere mortals a glimpse not only at finished masterpieces but equally intriguing missteps and studies. These are “Picasso’s Picassos”—unsigned works he made for himself rather than the art market—and they provide insight into the artist’s biography, aesthetic, and ability to mythologize himself.
Picasso is organized chronologically, which necessarily means both by style and by the women in his life. Certain phases—the Blue and Rose periods, for instance—are represented by a single work, while Cubism and Surrealism each get a room of their own. As for the female lovers, we are introduced to six of them as we enter the vast exhibition space (the largest the AGO has ever devoted to a single show), after which they function partly like muses and partly like soap opera characters.
The soap opera aspect is all by implication, though, if you skip the supplementary interpretive materials. Wall texts are minimal at the request of the Parisian curator, intensifying the sensation that we are touring one man’s psyche.
Some of the iconic works of the last century are here, including the sculpture of a “bull” constructed from a pair of bicycle handlebars and a bike seat, and Two Women Running on the Beach (1922). We see Picasso working on the Demoiselles d’Avignon and (in a series of photos taken by his lover Dora Maar) Guernica. And we get a crash course in modernism by one of its primary shapers, making the exhibition a blockbuster in more senses than one.
Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris continues through August 26 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. For info, visit ago.net or call 877-225-4246.
Ron Ehmke recently covered the NXNE Music/Film/Interactive Festival, the Luminato Festival, and other events in Toronto for buffalospree.com.