Picasso and Gertrude Stein but mostly Andy Warhol, at Musée du Luxembourg

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Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, 1980, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art

The exhibition “Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso”  conceived by Cécile Debray at Musée du Luxembourg is a last minute replacement for another show on Picasso and the Russians which was canceled. The director of Musée Picasso had worked extensively on the Stein family when she organized a show of their collections at Grand Palais in 2012. And the close relationship between the American writer and collector (she met Picasso when she bought “Jeune fille au panier de fleurs”) and the Spanish painter, is very interesting intellectually. There are recordings of Gertrude Stein’s reading her own poetry which are moving and the influence they both had on the birth of cubism is of course fascinating. But it is all a bit thin visually and to occupy the space of the small museum, contemporary art was added on to illustrate language and transmission. Josef Kosuth, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Sol Lewitt,  are prominently featured along Andy Warhol, who comes out as the great winner, once again. His portrait of Gertrude Stein lent by the Whitney is wonderful.

Pablo Picasso, “Homme à la cheminée” (man with the fireplace), 1916, Musée National Picasso, dation Pablo Picasso, in 1979

“America is my country, Paris is my hometown”, this sentence by Gertrude Stein could be applied to Picasso, the immigrant from Barcelona. They arrived in France within two years of each other and collaborated almost immediately. She met him when he was still in the Blue and pink period while she was already quite radical in her writing. The portrait he made of her in 1905 is now at the Metropolitan museum and did not travel, but there is a sculpture by Lipschitz which is excellent.

Josef Kosuth, “Self defined in five colors”, 1966, Paris Fondation Louis Vuitton

It is mostly in the 1960’s that Gertrude Stein’s part in New York’s counter culture became important. With the Living Theatre and “Doctor Faustus lights the lights”, in 1951, an opera based on her libretto and more and more artists who refer to her as an inspiration. The link between art and language is well illustrated by the neon by Josef Kosuth, “A sentence in five words”. Bruce Nauman, Deborah Kass, Gary Hill and also Sol Lewitt are also represented for their role of in Gertrude Stein’s legacy. A special room is dedicated to videos of Mercy Cunnigham’s ballets and choreographer Andy de Groat uses texts by Gertrude Stein in “Red notes” in 1977.

Cecil Beaton, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in tweed in the back, in Cecil Beaton’s studio in London, cir 1937, Cecil Beaton Archives, London

Maybe it’s just the title of the show which is wrong. It should have been called, “Gertrude Stein’s followers”… Until January 28 at Musée du Luxembourg.

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