Picasso at the Art Institute of Chicago—and beyond
This week, TOC previews the new Art Institute of Chicago exhibition "Picasso and Chicago," which opens to the public Wednesday 20. (The Member Preview begins Saturday 16.) I got a sneak peek this morning and found the show fascinating: Many of Pablo Picasso's (1881–1973) works on view are amazing prints and drawings from the museum's collection, such as Minotaur and Wounded Horse (1935, above), which I had never seen before.
When I interviewed Art Institute curator Stephanie D'Alessandro about "Picasso and Chicago," she told me, "When we decided to do this exhibition, we felt like it was much bigger than the Art Institute." The Art Institute's prescient support of Picasso made this show possible: It was the first American museum to exhibit his work. But D'Alessandro's excellent exhibition catalog reveals that the Arts Club of Chicago and the Renaissance Society were also crucial early promoters of the artist. Read more after the jump.
The Renaissance Society showed Picasso "more than any other artist" in the late 1920s and early 1930s, according to Hamza Walker, the Ren's associate curator and director of education. Walker says then-director Eva Watson-Schütze "knew she was playing to a much more conservative audience here at the University of Chicago," so rather than exhibiting Picasso alone, the Ren put him in group shows alongside older artworks, which put modernism in "a broader context." In 1930, the Ren displayed Picasso's Woman with a Helmet of Hair (1904), which collectors Kate and Walter Brewster donated to the Art Institute in 1950; the painting appears in "Picasso and Chicago."
The Arts Club organized a number of Picasso exhibitions at the Art Institute and its own headquarters during the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1939, it exhibited Guernica and 59 related works to benefit the Spanish Relief Campaign. Via e-mail, Arts Club director Janine Mileaf informs me the club's archive contains "a cable to Picasso that calls the show a 'grand success.'"