Mad About Picasso

What is it about Pablo Picasso? The allure of the celebrated Cubist continues nearly 40 years after his death, with his name a surefire sell as soon as it becomes attached to any museum exhibit. Neither as palatable as Renoir nor as rare as Vermeer, his work remains far less-known than paintings by either of them.  A handful of images — certainly the monumental “Guernica” comes to mind, as does “Three Musicians” — remain inextricably linked to him, but really who knows more than that?

Still, Picasso persists. His eventful personal life (a rotating entourage of wives and mistresses, muses and models), memorable periods (the rose, the blue, the African) and impish style (the beret, the striped shirts) mark him as a cultural icon even more than his expressive, distinctive and inventive paintings. Of those, he created nearly 2,000 — the tip of a torrential outpouring that also includes thousands of ceramics, textiles, drawings, prints, and sculptures.

And, so, an inexhaustible supply. This year, some half-dozen exhibits — two in New York’s most hallowed art institutions, the others dotted around the world — get underway,  just as the Musee Picasso in Paris (repository for the artist’s own holdings) closes for a two-year $28 million renovation, releasing many of its works.

Roll out the coffee table books, the umbrellas, the scarves. Surely, the old rogue would be laughing all the way to the bank. — JoAnn Greco

Here’s what’s on in 2010. Know of others? Leave a comment below.

Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris (1905-1945), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Feb.24 –  April 25. Features:  214 works from the Museum’s own collection of Picassos and his contemporaries explore how these artists forged a new kind of painting in the City of Light. Look for: the aforementioned “Three Musicians.”

Picasso. Moscow. From the National Picasso Museum, Paris, Puskin Museum, Moscow, Feb. 25 – May 23. Features: 250+ works, drawn from the Musee Picasso, the largest  exhibition devoted to the artist to be produced in Moscow in 50 years. Look for: drawings on themes from Sergei Diaghilev’s ballets.

Picasso: Themes and Variations. Museum of Modern Art, New York City. March 28- Sept. 6. Features: more than 100 prints. Look for: a series of lithographs that follow the artist’s step-by-step depiction of a bull as it morphs from strict realism to complete abstraction.

Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum, New York City, April 27 – Aug. 1. Features: 250 works, including the Museum’s complete holdings of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics by Picasso — never before seen in their entirety. Look for: the sure-to-be meticulously repaired painting, “The Actor,” which was torn when a museumgoer lost her balance and nicked the canvas.

Pablo Picasso: The Mediterranean Years (1945-1961), Gagosian Gallery, London, June 4 – Aug. 28. Features: About 100 works in all media, co-curated by the artist’s grandson. Look for: “Les Jeux,” with a much brighter palette than that adapted by Picasso during WWII.

Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, Seattle Art Museum, Oct. 8 – Jan. 9, 2011. Features: Some 150 works in all media, on loan from France. Look for “Portrait of Dora Maar,” one of the artist’s most famous treatments of a lady friend.

Picasso, Kunsthaus Zurich, Oct. 15- Jan. 30, 2011. Features: A remounting of 60+ pieces selected by the artist for exhibition at the Museum in 1932, the first-ever retrospective of his work. Look for: “The Yellow Belt: Marie-Therese,” a joyful caricature that is at once unmistakeably Picasso yet somehow not.

One good book: Guernica: The Biography of a Twentieth-Century Icon

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