Chicago’s reputation as America’s murder capital is a bad rap.
Yes, 506 murders were committed there last year, but the city possesses another kind of exclusivity - an unrivaled relationship with Pablo Picasso.
Some cities are art cities and some are wannabe’s that don’t know the difference. Chicago is an authentic art city devoid of pretense. .
It all started a century ago when, in 1913, the Art Institute of Chicago put on a gutsy show that proved a pivotal moment in modern art history. It was a show of the most avant-garde European artists of the day - Brâncusi, Duchamp, Matisse, and Picasso – and it transformed American art.
There were venues in other cities that offered looks at Europe’s art rebels, but they were private institutions. The Art Institute was the only American museum to present modern art to the public, and Chicago’s interest in Picasso went on from there - big time.
The Art Institute boasts some 400 Picasso’s, which led to the installation of Picasso’s first large-scale sculpture known as the Chicago Picasso – a 50-foot-tall Cubist work – now a famous landmark in downtown Chicago. A popular meeting place and a site for public events, the Chicago Picasso even made the movies, The Blues Brothers.
Now to celebrate the city’s 100th anniversary of the relationship with Picasso, more than 250 of his works, on view through May 12, were culled from both the Art Institute’s holdings and from private Chicago collectors. Visitors can see all of Picasso’s inventions in paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and ceramics.
The Art Institute collection includes Picasso’s Blue Period paintings: “The Old Guitarist,” the classical-styled “Mother and Child” and surrealist “Red Armchair” plus sculptures like the Cubist “Head of a Woman” (Fernande), http://www.examiner.com/article/love-lost-and-found-picasso-style as well as the maquette for the Chicago Picasso.
A statement from the Art Institute curators sums up the show this way: “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.”
But wait, there’s even more that marks Chicago an art city. I’m thinking of the “Pier Walk,” known to have attracted 6 million visitors, and the Walk isn’t even the main attraction. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Walk has drawn prominence from its position between two other important art events at the pier – “Art Chicago,” a five-day exhibit held each spring, and “SOFA” (Sculptural Object Functional Art ) held in the fall.
“Art Chicago” is known for showing the works of more than 2,100 international artists at the pier. Two hundred galleries from 22 countries have been represented. And at “SOFA,” 90 galleries have participated.
Then there are Chicago permanently installed public artworks by the world's greats – Miro, DuBuffet, Oldenburg, Moore, Calder, Chagall, Noguchi, Stella, Nevelson and, of course, Picasso.
“As cities go,” the Chicago Tribune once rightly crowed, “Chicago is a place a sculptor can call home…“What grew out of those shows was an overall acceptance by the general public of contemporary art.”