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Picasso Sculpture At NYC's MoMA: 'The Best Kept Secret Of The 20th Century'
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Picasso Sculpture At NYC's MoMA: 'The Best Kept Secret Of The 20th Century'

Picture of Alex Schnee
Updated: 12 December 2015
Pablo Picasso was the master painter known for his cubist paintings, such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, The Old Guitarist, and Three Musicians. But did you know that Picasso was also a prolific sculptor? It wasn’t until the 1960s that Picasso was recognized as a sculptor, and this work has been overshadowed by his paintings. But now, at the MoMA in New York City, viewers can see Picasso’s incredible sculptures for themselves.

Perhaps no artist who lived in and influenced the 20th century is revered more than Picasso. In the new retrospective at MoMA, the master’s work is seen from a new light—it’s a comprehensive look at the artist’s work in sculpture. Picasso Sculpture features works from the entirety of his life and throughout multiple different periods, creating a unique, previously unknown look into the psyche of an artist usually known mostly as a painter.

Featuring more than 100 sculptures, MoMA cites the ‘focus on his use of materials and processes’ as the highlight of the exhibit. Accompanied by some of his collage work, the exhibit is a tribute to Picasso’s constant need for self-expression and his ability to use experimentation to create innovative works that reflect each stage of his professional life.

It wasn’t until 1966 that art critics and fans were aware of Picasso’s interest in sculpture. Most of these works had been kept from the public eye in Picasso’s private collection, and it wasn’t until they were featured in the Hommage a Picasso retrospective in Paris that his talent for this medium was known. Using a conglomeration of materials, Picasso was constantly revitalizing his sculptural work—he thought of them almost as members of his family.

Located in the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Painting and Sculpture Gallery, the exhibit has been praised as a revelatory and witty look into the artist’s life. Set up as a history of his life, each room depicts a different period of Picasso’s 60-year career as an artist, beginning from his start in Paris at 21 years old. With influences from artists like Degas, Gauguin, and Derain, guests can see the beginnings of what would potentially develop into the artist’s own style and would later be the catalyst for the art movements of the future.

A gallery based on his Cubist works follows, highlighting works from 1912-15. Three-dimensional designs, including a full-sized guitar, reach out to the viewer and make them aware that even the smallest details are worth attention. This continues onto his next period spanning from 1929-35 in the adjacent room where the Surrealist movement is featured. Combining his Cubist past with a brand-new movement, Picasso was able to develop his own style and to gain approval from Andre Breton.

There is also a large nod to classical Greece and Rome in his plaster sculptures mostly constructed in the 1920s and 30s. Using plaster, there is an obvious comparison to ancient works—but with Picasso’s hand included. This is also apparent in his work Woman with a Vase (1933), which was once featured along with his masterpiece Guernica (1937) in the Spanish Loyalist Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair.

Picasso’s experiments with multiple mediums is reflected in different rooms, from his work with wood and ceramics all the way to his final use of steel. As they walk through each gallery room, visitors are reminded of the influence Picasso wielded over a considerable amount of time and how long his career stretched. His works display a surprising amount of child-like wonder, and his continued interest in sculpture reflects an artist willing to take chances.

It is a shame that Picasso was not well known for his work as a sculpture during his career, but in this stunning exhibit, the public is afforded a chance to see the work he had painstaking created hidden from an audience. The works serve to supplement what we already know about Picasso and his legacy, and to also add a personal touch—you leave the exhibit feeling as if you know him less as a omnipotent figure and more as a human being.

September 14, 2015 – February 7, 2016

The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 708 9400