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Picasso Ballet Tapestry Hangs on the Edge of Eviction

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I'm glad it's been given at least temporary reprieve! It just seems wrong that an artwork of this magnitude could be subject to the whim of one restaurant owner.

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Well, this is good news, albeit not long enough.

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I would question the Times quote from John Richardson about the importance of the curtain, perhaps he is referring to the costume and sets. And especially in comparison to the stunningly brilliant and complex curtains for Parade and Le Train Bleu which are more usually cited by art historians.

According to Richardson in his biography of Picasso, the curtain was a compromise – the original design "too polemical and un-Spanish" for Massine and Diaghilev – and the result "as stylistically harmonious and unchallenging as a travel poster."

Alfred Barr at the Museum of Modern Art thought Phyllis Lambert would be paying too much for it for the Seagram at $50,000, instead of $15,000. (When Diaghilev originally cut the section out to make it more saleable, he said that if anyone missed it, "we'd say we were afraid it might get spolt, if we went on using it ...")

Of course what's right in the context of architecture – and of a masterpiece such as the Seagram Building – is a different matter than what would go in a museum, more a harmony with architecture than a distracting melody.

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Maybe someone in Seattle could buy it. wink1.gif

Not right now -- we're in the middle of some infrastructure hullabaloo. (drilling impossible tunnel and drill has been damaged, underground. Seattle may become Boston West if we don't catch some luck) I do truly hope that it can be saved somewhere, though.

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Some news:

NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY TO UNVEIL CONSERVED PICASSO CURTAIN FOR “LE TRICORNE,” A LEGENDARY ARTWORK WITH NEW YORK CITY PEDIGREE

Picasso’s “Le Tricorne” on view May 29, 2015 – Summer 2016

NEW YORK, NY, April 8, 2015– This spring, the New-York Historical Society will unveil a recently acquired and conserved masterpiece by the Spanish born, French artist Pablo Picasso – the painted theater curtain for the balletLe Tricorne (1919). Donated by the Landmarks Conservancy to New-York Historical, theLe Tricorne curtain was installed like a tapestry for 55 years at the iconic Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York City. Believed to be the largest painting by Picasso in the United States, the 20 x 19 foot theater curtain is the first work by the artist in New-York Historical’s collection.

The curtain will be on long-term view at New-York Historical beginning May 29, 2015. From May 29 through summer 2016, an exhibition with related highlights from New-York Historical’s collection and special loans will complement the monumental artwork. Curated by Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, New-York Historical’s Curator of Drawings, the exhibition will illustrate the European tradition―with works by artists that inspired Picasso or, alternatively, works representing trends that he rebelled against―and showcase American art of the era. Among the artists represented are George Bellows, El Greco, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Francisco de Goya, Childe Hassam, Elie Nadelman, Maurice Prendergast, John Sloan, Adriaen van Utrecht, Judocus de Vos, and others.

"Le Tricorne has been an icon of New York for more than half a century, embodying both an influential social milieu and an important moment in the city’s cultural development,” said Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “As an institution that preserves, studies, and exhibits the artifacts of a continually changing city, we areproud to welcome the work into our permanent collection.”

History of Picasso’s Le Tricorne
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was commissioned to design and paint the stage curtain for the two-act balletThe Three-Cornered Hat (“Le Tricorne” or “El sombrero de tres picos”) by the impresario Serge Diaghilev for his avant-garde, Paris
-based Ballets Russes, the most influential ballet company of the early 20th century and a crucible of experimental modernism. Picasso was most intensely involved with the Ballets Russes while married to Olga Khokhlova, a dancer with the troupe. Choreographed by Léonide Massine who was also the principal male dancer, with music by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla, Le Tricorne was based on a Spanish romantic novella and featured fiery flamenco and folkloric dances.

Picasso created the curtain for Le Tricorne over a period of three weeks in 1919 in London with Diaghilev’s scene painter Vladimir Polunin and his wife Elizabeth Violet. Working with paintbrushes affixed to broom-handles and toothbrushes, Picasso and the Polunins wore slippers to stand on the canvas as they painted. The ballet―which premiered on July 22, 1919, at the Alhambra Theatre in London, with sets, costumes and the monumental stage curtain by Picasso―was a resounding critical success.

Shown during Le Tricorne’s overture, Picasso’s curtain signaled a quintessentially Spanish vignette: a bullfight. In the foreground of the painting, five spectators and a young fruit vendor are watching the bullfight from a classicizing colonnaded balcony. In the background, a slain bull is dragged out of the arena, the violent image partially concealed by spectators. The scene is painted in ochre yellow and reddish orange, the traditional colors of the bullring, and the figures are outlined in black, in the bold style of posters then in vogue. Although unrelated to the libretto’s plot, Picasso’s curtain clearly set the Iberian mood for the ballet.

In 1928, in need of money to finance new shows, Diaghilev cut out the center of the large curtain and sold it to a private collector. In 1957, it was first acquired by Phyllis Lambert, architectural historian and daughter of Samuel Bronfman, CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd. (now Vivendi), who displayed it in the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building from 1959-2014. Vivendi gifted Picasso’sLe Tricorne curtain to the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2005 as a “Gift to the City.” The Conservancy has now entrusted the New-York Historical Society with this New York City landmark.

Other Exhibition Highlights
Inspired by Picasso’s painting for Le Tricorne, the exhibition will explore stylistic and thematic connections between the curtain and artworks and objects in New-York Historical’s holdings, supplemented by three special loans. Among the collection highlights are two large, recently-conserved tapestries that have not been displayed for decades – Judocus de Vos’The Triumph of Apollo (ca. 1715), which dates to the end of the reign of the French “Sun King” Louis XIV, and the Art DecoBelgian Settlers Landing on Manhattan Island in 1623 (1939), created by Floris Jespers for the New York World’s Fair of 1939. Masterworks by El Greco and Goya, on loan from the Hispanic Society of America, will showcase Picasso’s artistic influences.

Picasso’s “Le Tricorne” also will present works by American artists who were Picasso’s contemporaries, many of who participated in the 1913 Armory Show that introduced modernism to U.S. audiences.The Circus (1912) by George Bellows, on loan from the Addison Gallery of American Art, will underline the importance of the Armory Show, where Picasso also showed his work. Elie Nadelman, who also exhibited at the Armory Show, met Picasso in Paris in 1908 and whose terracotta sculpture The Four Seasons (ca. 1912) shows a similar classical inspiration, sometimes claimed that in fact he – not Picasso – had invented Cubism. On the other hand, Russian immigrant artist Abraham Manievich’sThe Bronx (1924) applied a Cubist-Futurist style to the New York cityscape.

The exhibition also will note the craze for Spanish culture inspired by the success ofLe Tricorne, showcasing ivory and lace fans and a lace shawl that echo the fashions of Picasso’s painted figures, as well as dance-related objects from the collection that relate to New York City, such as Malvina Hoffman’s bust of acclaimed Russian dancer Anna Pavlova (1924). It also will feature a video of the 1994 performance of Le Tricorne by the Paris Opera Ballet.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

New-York Historical is recognized for engaging the public with deeply researched and far-ranging exhibitions, such asAlexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America; Slavery in New York;Lincoln and New York; Audubon’s Aviary; WWII & NYC, The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution;and Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion. Supporting these exhibitions and related education programs is one of the world's greatest collections of historical artifacts, works of American art, and other materials documenting the history of the United States and New York.

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Oh excellent -- this is a great conclusion!

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This is wonderful news and a very happy ending. What a nail-biter, though, reading through the thread and links. I'm so happy it will be on permanent display for all to enjoy. Already planning a visit to the NYHS in June when I see LaBayadere!

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The NY Historical Society has posted a cool time lapse video about the hanging of the curtain:

www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/picassos-le-tricorne

Oh, that's wonderful, thank you, millosr. That curtain has had some journey. You may know that it first went to Williamstown, Mass for cleaning before arriving at its permanent home at the NYHS. I plan on visiting it when i come down to NYC for La Bayadere yahoo.gif .

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