Yo, Pablo: Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Who are the artists that people who know nothing about art know? Van Gogh? Michelangelo? Picasso? For museums trying to bring traffic through their doors, drawing in the non-art lover is more important than ever. Shows such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris offer enough for the devotee of modern art to sink their teeth into while being accessible enough for newbies to cut their teeth on it, too. In addition to presenting a great artist to the public, Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris provides a textbook example of how museums can maximize their own collections to maximize their profits and chances for survival.

You can never replicate the experience of standing in front of the artwork itself, but the web presence of this show comes really, really close. The opening page of the exhibition features several clips of the PMA’s inimitable Michael Taylor, the show’s curator and the museum’s modern art curator, talking about important pieces throughout the galleries. Every time I’ve attended a press preview, I’ve always wished that everyone could hear these passionate professionals share their insights. These rich human resources often seem wasted in dumbed down audio tours. The PMA’s video clips allow Taylor to exercise the full length of his erudition to wonderful effect.


The PMA’s web page follows the curator with a comprehensive gallery guide that allows anyone to wander virtually among the art. Encountering Jean Metzinger’s 1911 Tea Time (Woman with a Teaspoon), known as the “Mona Lisa of Cubism,” on a computer screen or, better, in person complements Picasso’s art while demonstrating that the “and Avant-Garde in Paris” section of the show’s title isn’t just an empty promise. Paris in the age of Picasso hummed like a beehive of activity, with Picasso himself buzzing from movement to movement and cross-pollinating artists of all kinds.

Any museum with internet resources should follow the PMA’s lead and load up their web pages with content. Instead of worrying that such offerings will satisfy the curious and hurt attendance, museums should be secure enough in the power of their offerings that a little taste will only make people hungry for more. Of course, the PMA’s formidable collection of art allows them to stage in-house productions such as Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris with little outside help, whereas smaller museums may only dream of putting together such big-name shows. The real message of this exhibition, aside from the greatness of Picasso and his central role in a pivotal moment in the history of modern art, is that today’s museums need to adapt or die.

[Image: Tea Time (Woman with a Teaspoon), 1911. Jean Metzinger (French, 1883-1956). Oil on cardboard, 29 7/8 x 27 5/8 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.]

[Many thanks to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for providing me with the image above and press materials for Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris, which runs through April 25.]

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists claim the Bible is written in code that predicts future events

The controversy around the Torah codes gets a new life.

Michael Drosnin
Surprising Science
  • Mathematicians claim to see a predictive pattern in the ancient Torah texts.
  • The code is revealed by a method found with special computer software.
  • Some events described by reading the code took place after the code was written.
Keep reading Show less

5 of the worst inventions in modern history

Be glad your name isn't attached to any of these bad ideas.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Some inventions can be celebrated during their time, but are proven to be devastating in the long run.
  • The inventions doesn't have to be physical. Complex mathematical creations that create money for Wall Street can do as much damage, in theory, as a gas that destroys the ozone layer.
  • Inventors can even see their creations be used for purposes far different than they had intended.
Keep reading Show less

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
Keep reading Show less