When the Art Institute of Chicago decided to refurbish its Modern art wing, it needed a place to park its collection of nearly 100 masterpieces. The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth was more than happy to oblige. The exhibition, which opened recently, is “The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago.” Nearly every important artist of the first half of the 20th century is included.
Jerome Weeks, KERA’s Art&Seek reporter, recently visited the exhibit. And he really likes it. Read his review:
Put simply, The Age of Picasso and Matisse is glorious — equal to its pre-arrival anticipation. To be crudely monetary, it probably has more masterworks per square inch than any other recent art exhibition. So consider it a good value for the adult ticket price of $18.
For all its aura of serious culture, the Kimbell does like to give the public what it wants. This is the sixth show in 14 years with some connection to Picasso. But of all those touring shows — From Renoir to Picasso, Picasso and Braque, Portraiture in the Age of Picasso – this is the one most likely to make your eyes widen. Over here, there’s the sharp, eager precision of early Cubism — paintings like diamond drills. Set against them are Matisse’s evocations of sunny, languid Mediterranean life. Turn a corner, and there’s Vasily Kandinsky and his delirious colors. Or Salvador Dali’s burning giraffe. Or Constantin Brancusi’s elegant spear of bronze, The Golden Bird. And on it goes.
Four years ago, the Art Institute of Chicago loaned the Kimbell its Impressionists for a blockbuster show. Now it’s the 20th century’s turn. But if you saw these pieces in Chicago, they had dozens of other artworks clustered around. Here, they’re extracted, concentrated. Rarely has the rippling explosion of early modern art — all that inventive genius in France from 1900 to 1950 –rarely has it been packed so vividly into 98 paintings and sculptures. We get leading Expressionists, then Cubists, Futurists, Dadaists, Surrealists.
And so on. Much like that earlier Impressionists’ show, the works are loosely presented by chronology but also grouped by kinship. The show makes the case that Picasso and Matisse were always there, pushing and experimenting, while making the two masters something like links in a chain pulling us along through the various styles and schools. In fact, one could subtract their works and the Kimbell’s show would still be a phone directory of avant-garde masters: Modigliani, Miro, Max Ernst, Mondrian, Duchamp.
One could even display just the sculptures and have a small, but wildly impressive show with works by Matisse, Picasso, Lipschitz, Brancusi and Ernst (an interesting light cast on the choices made here: six of the works are more or less duplicated in the Nasher’s collection).