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Stephanie D'Alessandro, Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute on the New Exhibit Picasso and Chicago

Q & A with Stephanie D'Alessandro, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute on the new exhibit Picasso and Chicago opening on February 20, 2013 in Chicago.


Q1: How did Chicago end up forging a long relationship with Picasso?

It is clear in even the briefest of histories that Chicago played a critical, early role in the reception and development of modern art in the United States. While the career of Pablo Picasso is just one of many examples, it is nonetheless an extraordinary story that began in 1913 at the Armory Show: some of the most significant events in the reception of his art—including the first presentation of Picasso’s works at an American art museum, the first solo show devoted to the artist outside a commercial gallery, and the first permanent display of his work in an American museum—all happened in Chicago and all within just the first two decades of the last century. This exhibition and catalogue “Picasso and Chicago” celebrate the special hundred-year relationship of Pablo Picasso, the preeminent artist of the twentieth century, and our city. The chronology documents the events of Picasso’s career and the growth of Chicago’s cultural institutions, and the storied moments of overlap that have contributed not only to the vibrant interest in Picasso today but also to the presence of nearly four hundred works by the artist in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Q2: What makes this new exhibition so special?

It is the first major Picasso exhibition organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in 30 years. This presentation features over 250 of the finest examples of Picasso’s paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and ceramics from private collections throughout Chicago and the Art Institute’s own exceptional holdings. The Art Institute’s collection includes such important paintings as the classically inspired Mother and Child (1921) and the Surrealist Red Armchair (1931). The museum will also offer a full slate of programs that bring Picasso to life. Highlights include a lecture by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker and a symposium featuring Michael FitzGerald, Janine Mileaf and Diana Widmaier Picasso, an expert on the artist’s sculpture.

The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome catalogue, Picasso and Chicago: 100 Years, 100 Works written by Stephanie D'Alessandro, the Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute  with 106 color and nine black-and-white illustrations, and an insightful essay written by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker.