Picasso exhibit at Columbus Museum of Art

Combine the visit with “Origami in the Garden” at Franklin Park Conservatory

If you’re an art-lover in search of the perfect summer outing, look no further than Columbus and a combined visit to the Columbus Art Museum and the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The two special city sites are just down the street from one another and both offer free parking.

In October, the museum opened a new 50,000-square-foot wing with exhibition and collection spaces. There’s a new main entrance, a gorgeous new 2,000- square-foot gift shop, a relocated sculpture garden and updated outdoor spaces. The charming cafe, Schokko Art Cafe, is being run by the folks at Cameron Mitchell. Wow!

On June 10, the CMA introduced an ambitious undertaking: a Picasso exhibit in partnership with the prestigious Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Entitled “Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change,” the exhibition will be on display through Sept. 11.

At the exhibit opening, Nannette Maciejunes, the museum’s executive director, explained that her institution has a history of coming up with exhibits inspired by artworks in the permanent collection. This time it was Picasso’s “Still Life with Compote and Glass,” painted in 1914-15 and one of the most admired works in Columbus since its debut at the CMA in 1931.

Staffers considered a still life show, but decided to focus instead on the artist’s work between 1912 and 1924 — prior to, during and after the years of the First World War. That was especially fitting at this time, said Maciejunes, with the world marking the 100th anniversary of The Great War.

To curate the special exhibit, the CMA chose independent curator Simonette Fraquelli, a Picasso expert who lives in Milan. She believes Pablo Picasso is the most important artist of the 20th century.

“He was the most inventive and was re-inventing himself all the time,” Maciejunes explained at the Columbus opening. “All of the other artists of his time either followed him or reacted to him. He could do sculpture, painting, printmaking, pottery.”

The current exhibit explores that versatility: the 50 works on display include oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and even four costumes Picasso designed for the avant-garde ballet, “Parade,” which premiered in Paris in 1917. A complementary touring exhibit, “Pablo Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics,” focuses on the pottery the artist created in cooperation with Georges and Suzanne Ramie at their Madoura pottery workshop in Vallauris, France, between the years 1947 and 1971. You’ll see plates, vases, pitchers.

Also on display and curated by the CMA’s chief curator David Stark, are canvases by Picasso’s contemporaries including Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and Diego Rivera.

Collaboration with The Barnes

CMA is the only venue, other than The Barnes, that will display the works included in “Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change.” Fraquelli said that’s because many of those who’ve loaned the important pieces on display — including the Picasso museums in Barcelona, Málaga and Paris and private collectors — do not want their precious artwork away for a longer period of time.

She said the new exhibition is significant because it allows visitors to examine Picasso’s work during a critical period when he began exploring both Cubism — the idea of fragmentation and ripping apart appearances — and Neoclassism.

“A radical shift occurred in Picasso’s work in 1914,” Fraquelli notes. “Following seven years of refining the visual language of cubism, he began to introduce elements of naturalism to his work.”

She believes the significant change may have been due to the fact that that many people identified cubism with the German enemy and perceived it as unpatriotic.

Fraquelli believes the two styles are not antithetical and that one actually informs the other. Occasionally, she said, both styles can even be seen in the same works of art. A case in point is “Studies,” an oil on canvas painted in 1920.

You’ll see Picasso art ranging from portraits and nudes to still life.

Other exhibit highlights

The ballet, “Parade,” for which Picasso designed costumes, was the first cross-disciplinary collaboration of its kind and was considered revolutionary at the time. The story, about an itinerant theater group performing a sideshow, was written by Jean Cocteau. Picasso also designed the theater curtain and set — you’ll see his curtain and costume sketches as well as one original costume and three other costume recreations. Be sure and watch the video of the original production.

Another interesting aspect of this show are the photographs taken by Jean Cocteau that show Picasso and his friends hanging out in Paris.

The CMA is doing a good job of incorporating hands-on elements for its exhibits. For Picasso, they’ve assembled costumes that can be donned. You may want to coordinate your visit with one of the special programs created for this show, everything from talks on fashion and the historical context of the show to music and dinner parties inspired by Picasso’s time in Paris during the early 1900s.

The exhibition T-shirts, available in the gift shop, display a famous Picasso quote: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

Origami and beautiful gardens

Artist Kevin Box not only creates beautiful origami sculptures, he takes great care to show us how its done. You’ll never believe that the giant sculptures located throughout the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens began as a piece of paper.

The show, which debuts in Columbus, will then stop in other cities including Naples and Chicago. It tells the story of the Japanese art of paper folding and includes the artists’ own creations as well as collaborative works with his wife, Jennifer, and origami masters Robert J. Lang, Te Jui Fu, Michael G. LaFosse and Richard L. Alexander.

In conjunction with the origami show, the gardens are featuring an annual Bonsai exhibition. This year, various styles of Japanese gardens are the focus.

Be sure to watch the video that introduces the origami exhibit, and don’t miss the the gallery that breaks down the origami process. So in addition to seeing a finished design, Box also shows each piece of paper unfolded it so you can see the actual creases that were created to make it.

Box makes paper origami, but them uses lost-wax casting methods and metals to make it a permanent sculpture of bronze, steel and aluminum. It’s a treasure hunt, where you’ll walk the the beautiful courtyards and tropical plant collections and suddenly come upon one of the beautiful sculptures — such as the “Painted Ponies,” a collection of four brass sculptures in a field of summer flowers.

Master Peace is a 25-foot-tall monument composed of 500 steel origami cranes. An installation of more than 200 paper butterflies created by LaFosse and Alexander is suspended from the skylight in the Conservatory’s Grand Atrium.

Included in the exhibit is a children’s area where families can try their hand at their own origami creations. A number of interesting special programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibit including sessions on paper fans and origami.

Lunch?

Both the art museum and the Conservatory have cafes.

At the Conservatory, The Garden Cafe serves a variety of fresh and seasonal salads, sandwiches and soups and also has children’s items. A selection of wines and beers are available for purchase. The Cafe is the “storefront” of sorts for the Conservatory’s in-house catering company. For more details: http://fpconservatory.org/Plan-A-Visit/Garden-Cafe

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