From Paris to Richmond: Picasso Comes to the River City

February 19, 2011

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By Dave Lawrence, Doug Callahan, Eric Steigleder, Christian Wright
Multimedia Journalism Masters Program

RICHMOND, Va. – Hundreds of people lined up outside the doors of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on a beautiful Saturday morning to attend the opening of the long-awaited Pablo Picasso exhibition.

The works, on loan from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, will be on view until May 15.

“A show of this stature you would normally see in New York City,” said Robin Nicholson, deputy director for Art and Education at the VMFA.

The exhibition is unique because it represents samples of work Picasso set aside as a way to establish his legacy. All major phases of his career, including the Blue and Rose periods, Cubism, his return to Classicism, Surrealism, and his political and social works, are represented. In all, 176 works are featured, including paintings, sculptures, sketches and prints.

“This exhibition is without a doubt an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the American public,” said VMFA Director Alex Nyerges in a press statement. “An exhibition this monumental is extremely rare, especially one that spans the entire career of a figure who many consider the most influential, innovative and creative artist of the 20th century.”

Many of the Saturday’s visitors agreed.

“I think it’s a great exhibit,” said Cliff Edwards, a professor of religious studies at VCU.

He said he especially liked the way the exhibit shows the diversity and evolution of Picasso’s art.

“He seems to use all kinds of materials. He builds of everything that’s around him. He uses ordinary objects. He seems to have fun with his paint,” Edwards said.

VMFA marketing director Bob Tarren said that more than 6,000 VMFA members attended two days of member previews of the exhibit, and 700 attended a donor’s gala.

So far, 35,000 tickets for the exhibit have been sold.

“This is obviously not your grandfather’s museum exhibition full of dusty old stuff,” Tarren said. “This is buzzworthy.”

In addition the artwork, VMFA will be showing Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1956 film, “The Mystery of Picasso,” during its Fourth Fridays event on Friday, Feb. 25. The film shows Picasso working “on the opposite side of a glass canvas on which he is painting,” and features many candid comments by the artist. Tickets for the film are $7 for the general public and $5 for VMFA members.

The exhibit is free for VMFA members and children 6 and under; $20 for adults; and $16 for seniors 65 and over, students with IDs, adults in groups of 10 or more, and youths aged 7 to 17.