Picasso in Seattle

I had planned the day. It was a simple plan. I would walk from my tiny apartment in the Rue La Jussienne near Les Halles over to the Marais, my heart set on exploring the Musée Picasso, which I knew would be open on a Monday. I would spend as long as I wanted there, have lunch nearby, and walk home, perhaps stop at the Louvre on the way for another visit if I felt like it.

When I found the pale yellow mansion on a cobbled street, a sign on the gate informed me that the museum was closed today for repairs to the exterior walls.

Crushed, I stared in the iron gate like a little kid, unable to believe my bad luck.

I settled for a walk through the Marais and all the way back to the Louvre for a third visit. By no means a wasted day - but my Picasso-yearning soul went hungry.

How gratifying, then, that the Musée Picasso has decided that since I couldn't get in that day, the museum would come to me.

This is a larger-than-life size reproduction of a Picasso self-portrait (with Cai Guo-Qiang's flying car installation, Inopportune: Stage One, 2004) currently hanging in the Brotman Forum at the Seattle Art Museum.

Picasso's photographs of himself reveal what he wanted us to see. Self-portraits are by nature self-conscious, and his span from an early, blurry shot sitting pensively on a sofa in the early 1900's to this one, the artist posed as Colossus in his studio, projecting supreme confidence. It's one of many original prints of pictures he took and that others took of him in the impressive show now up at SAM.

Of course the photos are incidental to the paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures that make up the exhibit. I went Friday night and wandered slowly through room after room, never sure if this would be the last gallery - and always it seemed, there was another. In the final room, his magnificent and satisfyingly anatomical she-goat holds court.

It's a stunning exhibit, with a 150 works spanning a lifetime.

Thank you, directors of the Musée Picasso, and thank you, curators at SAM, for asking the right question in the right way at the right time to bring these works from their elegant home, now closed for extensive renovations, across an ocean and a continent to Seattle rather than putting them in storage. Or for that matter, sending them to some other lucky town. 

I plan to go again to the Marais when the museum is renovated and the gates are open. Meanwhile, I'm going to go downtown to 2nd and University to visit the show, many more times. I'll no doubt have thoughts and opinions about the work itself in another post.

What? Oh. You're welcome, it was nothing.


SAM's PICASSO Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris is on view October 8, 2010–January 17, 2011