Examining the perplexed, even crestfallen, expression of certain enthusiasts we encountered as they left the Musée du Luxembourg, we understand that the subject has not aroused excessive enthusiasm. The pitch was nevertheless attractive: to tell the story of the friendly and aesthetic love at first sight between Pablo Picasso and his first patron, Gertrude Stein.
A founding story of the avant-gardes that it was tempting to put into images. Alas, that’s not exactly what it says ultimately the exhibition, of which it is difficult to grasp the real subject and even more so the coherence. This complicity seems in fact a simple pretext to attract a large audience thanks to a “bankable” headliner. The underlying subject is in fact much less salesy than Picasso, since it concerns the influence of Stein’s radical poetry on American artists of the second half of the 20th century.
If you want to admire conceptual works or endure a screaming Bruce Nauman video on repeat, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to immerse yourself in the glorious hours of the invention of Cubism, you will however be left wanting more, the works of the Andalusian representing painfully a fifth of the pieces on display. And don’t count on discovering unpublished or rarely seen paintings or assemblages either, because they all come from the Picasso Museum. Worse still, even the relationship between the painter and his collector, a story that is so incredible, is barely covered.
View of the exhibition “Gertrude Stein and Picasso. The invention of language” at the Luxembourg Museum.
© Didier Plowy / Rmn-GP, scenography Studio Matters, 2023.