10/07/2010 09:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Picasso's Laboratory Comes to the Seattle Art Museum

Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris
October 8, 2010 - January 17, 2011 at the Seattle Art Museum.

I thought I knew Picasso
That is until I got to walk through the exhibition with Chairman and Chief Curator of Collections at the Musée National Picasso, Paris, Anne Baldassari. "Picasso was constantly experimenting with new ways of seeing," Anne says, as we pause to look at Téte de femme, (Head of a Woman) a metal sculpture made of found objects including two colanders, "this exhibition is his laboratory."


Anne Baldassari, Chairman and Chief Curator of Collections, Musée National Picasso, Paris, photographed in the Seattle Art Museum.

This exhibition is also part of Picasso's personal collection and represents the most comprehensive look at his life and work--outside of Paris. Besides examples of his famed Cubist masterpieces, on display are paintings from his Blue and Rose Periods, sculpture and tableaux-reliefs, drawings and even personal photographs.

Spanning his life, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris not only changed the way I think about Picasso, but I came away with new ideas about how we see.

The exhibition contains early works such as such as The Death of Casagemas, 1901, which marks the start of his Blue Period, his nude self-portrait of 1906 that is a first step toward Cubism, and later works such as Massacre in Korea painted in 1951. There's even a study for one of his most famous masterpieces, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.


Installation view of "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris," at the Seattle Art Museum. All works collection of the Musée National Picasso, Paris, © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

This show takes the visitor on a visual tour of Picasso's artistic and personal life. But beyond that we get to experience many of the important events of the 20th Century through the eyes of a true genius. One comes away with a new appreciation for the depth of Picasso's vision; his art is more than surface deep, it's not just about form. And as Anne Baldassari says, "Picasso was more than an artist, he was a philosopher, and his work is as relevant today as it was when he created it."

Hosting Picasso

An exhibition of this importance calls for a first-class venue, and the Seattle Art Museum, SAM, is one of only three U.S. museums selected to host this unique Picasso event. I asked Chiyo Ishikawa, Vice Director of SAM, how Seattle got to be so lucky. "We knew the Musée National, Picasso was going to be closed for renovation," she said. "So we met with Anne and after many discussions we all agreed that Seattle would be the choice for the U.S. debut of the exhibition."


Michael McCafferty, Director of Exhibition Design for SAM, describes
some of the detailed work that goes into mounting the Picasso exhibition.

This is the first Picasso exhibition in Seattle, and mounting it has been no small undertaking. Adding to the usual issues of transporting, designing, hanging and lighting, are the challenges of exceptional security and insurance for more than 150 pieces of priceless art. It took close cooperation between SAM and the Musée National Picasso plus more than 2 years of careful planning to put this exhibition in place.


SAM, a city landmark, has helped Seattle become a West Coast center for the arts.

The SAM facility itself is something of a work of art. Designed by famed architect, Robert Venturi, with a 2007 expansion by Brad Cloepfil, its entrance is marked by Jonathan Borofsky's three-story animated sculpture, Hammering Man. Inside is a 268,000 square foot, state-of-the art museum staffed by world-class professionals. With a modern facility and noteworthy permanent collection of ethnic and modern art, SAM has played a major role in establishing Seattle as an important West Coast center for the arts.

And that makes SAM a fitting setting because after all, nothing less would do justice to Picasso's laboratory. For tickets and more information, visit

Headline image © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. © atelier Robert Doisneau

Darby Roach is a designer and a writer and heads up his own marketing agency, Orbit Direct. His most recent book, Your Three Second Window, demystifies the design process by explaining why we like the things we like, how to see and think as a designer, and what each of us can do to introduce harmony into our lives through enhanced aesthetic experiences.

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