No surprise: the Museum of Modern Art has extended its exhibition of Matisse's cut outs as a result of popular demand. The same happened when the show featuring the master's late in life career debuted in London's Tate. But viewers in 350 American cities as of this week do not have to travel to get a state of the art tour through the galleries. As a result of a new film project, Exhibition on Screen, audiences can walk through the galleries of the show, a melding of the UK and U.S. venues in their local cinemas, with many extras including curator talks, archival footage of the artist at work, and a view of the artist's inspiration, in Matisse's case, a ballet dancer's lithe figure in performance.
In a phone interview, filmmaker Phil Grabsky explained the idea for this series which will include programs on the Impressionists and "The Girl with the Pearl Earring:" "You can't beat the experience of seeing the show in person. Ideally audiences will see the films before or after seeing the show."
"In our culture today, everything is equal. I'm sorry, Lady Gaga is not Chopin. Their music is not the same. Our film series is illustrating impressive creative abilities and passion. Artists go as far as they can with their craft. We are now doing our 9th film, and would love to film contemporary artists soon, like Tracey Emin, who is quite popular now, Rothko, Hopper, and Ai Wei Wei. We are thinking of doing programs on museums' permanent collections. They have their own stories behind them."
As to Matisse, "I'm the audience. I learned an enormous amount about Matisse in making the film. What myth did we uncover? Many people think Matisse turned to cut-outs at age 74 because he had cancer. But no. This was a late in life artistic decision, which makes the story far more interesting."
Alas, the exhibition, "Picasso & the Camera" at New York's Gagosian has already closed. An expansive view of the artist at work, and in private was a highlight, but the focus was on how photographs influenced Picasso's paintings, portraits of his wives and lovers, and collages. A subject himself, Picasso was photographed by Edward Quinn, Andre Villers, Brassai, Cecil Beaton, Arnold Newman, Cartier-Bresson among many. While a filmed tour of this sumptuous exhibition would have been wonderful, the catalogue makes a handy substitute, with illuminating essays by curator John Richardson, Jacques Prevert, and Mary Ann Caws. But as Man Ray eloquently put it in an essay called "Picasso, Photographer," "The eye of Picasso sees better than it is seen."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.