Guests wandering through the Sofitel lobby in Midtown Manhattan encounter vivid photographs of prominent modern and contemporary artists creating works on canvas, conversing with models, even cavorting with zoo animals.
The images on view in Revealed, curated by Olivier Picasso and on view at Sofitel in New York City until August, include candid photos of his grandfather Pablo Picasso alongside such other prolific figures as Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Rene Magritte, and Jeff Koons. The images do not need a physical voice to speak volumes as they uncover intimate scenes from the daily lives of these art world luminaries. Amassed from the archives of French magazine Paris Match, these scenes are infused with a poignancy and warmth absent from many of these same artists’ static museum pieces. The works serve as a key, unlocking a treasure trove of art history secrets.
Sofitel executives tapped Olivier Picasso, author of Picasso: Portrait in Time and a key figure in the re-launch of the pivotal Picasso Museum in Paris, to curate this intimate history of master artists. His selection balances a nuanced view of modern and contemporary art history with inspiring, striking imagery, romanticizing the myth of the artists while simultaneously uncovering ordinary moments in their daily lives. The contrast of scales in the exhibit serve as a balance, countering the human scale of the portrait with architectural scale of vast studio interiors. Olivier himself alludes to these constructions as he notes the exhibition took shape over the course of three months as the exhibit cohesively “fit together like pieces in a puzzle.”
The exhibition as a whole captures the dynamic of the artistic process as it develops in the studio environment. The selected works reveal moments of private contemplation, unveiling the previously hidden stage where creative vision is made manifest. The curator’s exploration of the “spirit and the place” which he notes was part of the developmental process is echoed in the spirit of the Sofitel lobby: its intimate interiors stand in stark contrast to the normally cold, white cube gallery, allowing visitors a warm and welcoming place to ponder these parallel histories.
One fair criticism is on the exhibit’s relative lack of diversity (no artists on view are female and only Fernando Botero and Liu Bolin were not born in Europe or the United States, though Botero lived in Europe). One assumes the historic scope of the Paris Match archives is a primary factor in this oversight. The exhibit does faithfully span several art historical periods, inclusive of artists from such movements as cubism, fauvism, and post-impressionism on to graphic art, post-modernism and contemporary. Those familiar with the artists on view will likely enjoy the exhibit’s candor; however, the images are imaginative and captivating enough that even uninitiated guests not fully versed in the art world enjoy the show.
Standout images on view include a contemplative Joan Miro communing with color pigments in a spiritual moment in his studio and Jean Cocteau archly eyeing a larger-than-life figure from a mural he created in a 14th century Roman chapel. Salvador Dali appears twice, once with a blonde, bespectacled model and once again with a rhinoceros cheekily posing in profile. Pablo Picasso shares a Baroque moment with a companion, a la Georges de La Tour, at the 1956 Cannes film festival. This image, a fitting choice by his descendant, is arguably the exhibit’s coup d’etat, commanding the central area above the fireplace.
When questioning Olivier on his personal choice of artists, he pointed to Jeff Koons as one artist he feels captures the zeitgeist of the current moment. Commenting on the usual criticism of Koons as a “prostitute” to the art world machine, the view he holds is that Koons is able to produce an ouput prolific enough to “fill all the screens” that society continually scans for constant stimulation. He makes a point to designate Koons an “artist of today, including him to continue a dialogue between the art world of the past and artists determining its future.
It would be an accurate reflection to say that, in keeping with the spirit of Picasso’s legacy, Olivier has captured the art world from many different angles, a la Cubism, into one cohesive image representing the timeless vision of the artist at work.