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Picasso in Seattle, II

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937

Three months ago, I wrote about our visit to the Seattle Art Museum to attend one of the opening, members-only viewings of the new show Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. I said at the time that my visit decades ago to the Picasso Museum was a revelation, but no second revelation was forthcoming.

For one, there is only a small fraction of the works I saw in Paris years ago. For another, my long ago visit to the Musée Picasso was on a quiet weekday morning. I could go wherever I wanted, linger as long as I wished, view paintings alone, follow the chronological path and double back as often as I pleased. The Seattle exhibition is again chronological, but everything was so crowded. And then there was the curse of the audio tour. Wherever a painting was marked with a tour number, crowds would form. The problem is that people stay put for however long the audio remarks take, even if the work itself is no longer being discussed. And the auditors tend to cluster in a respectful semi-circle with a large radius, so no one can get close without getting in their way.

I closed the post by noting that we’ll “need to go back, this time sans audio tour and preferably sans people.” Well, the exhibition ends in seven hours, at midnight, and we got back just in time, two nights ago. But by waiting to make our return visit until the closing weekend, we managed to stumble into even larger crowds than awaited us the first time. And the semi-circular clustering of auditors seemed even worse than the first time, maybe because the radii of the semi-circles were larger. If one didn’t want to break the semi-circle, one was so far back that one couldn’t see the painting in any detail or read the painting’s name and year. It was an altogether frustrating experience.

Well, not altogether. For example, the Dora Maar portrait shown above, though part of the audio tour, was in a large enough room, and far enough into the show (by which point auditors’ attention seems to flag), that it was possible to get close and linger without feeling I was in some way invading the invisible semi-circular force field. And there are so many other treasures. We’re glad we went.

Categories: Art
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