Thursday, October 16, 2008

Place settings

For an extreme example of the way museums show art and commercial venues view it is blurring, go no further than Picasso: Portrait of Soul on show at the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo Midtown. Of course there’s nothing strange about a major art exhibition in a store in Japan, and once inside the galleries you could be inside any white-cube public art museum in the world. The strange part of the mix though was outside in the mall (maybe shopping complex would be fairer, it was more Prada than Whitcoulls) where Tokyo Midtown’s management has set up its own exhibition Picasso’s Place.

At the top of the escalators and before you got to Picasso: Portrait of Soul, there it was - Picasso’s Place. Split into Picasso’s Private Place and Picasso’s Work Place, the consensus about just what the Spaniard would have included in his worlds seemed to be art, objects and books. The art was easy enough. A few daubs on unlikely objects with the highlight an attempt to paint Guernica on a bull’s skull (Best mixed metaphor award). Objects, not so easy. Best Object Painted Gold definitely went to Picasso’s Gnome table and Best Object with Sales Potential to the many sets of Faber-Castell pencils scattered about. There was not much to distinguish Picasso’s Private Place from his Work Place; books (some surprisingly rare and interesting), weird driftwood lamps (“he was creative”), a striped jersey and, “is that really a large wooden rat?”

As usual, Picasso’s Place came with its own guard. Unusually, he was more than happy to take photographs of visitors with the exhibits.

Images: Top, Picasso’s two worlds. Bottom from left, sales goods, a “Picasso”, the gnome table and more skull art.