Gagosian’s Extravagant ‘Picasso’s Women’ Show Includes That Painting Steve Wynn Tore With His Elbow
“Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline” is a megawatt tribute to Picasso's late biographer John Richardson.
If you’ve ever wanted to get a look at art owned by billionaires that’s normally locked behind closed doors, now is your chance. An exhibition opening Friday at Gagosian‘s Madison Avenue gallery explores Pablo Picasso‘s artistic relationship to his many lovers and muses. One of the centerpieces of the exhibition is Le Rêve, a 1932 portrait of the artist’s then-lover, Marie-Therese Walter, that is the subject of considerable art-world lore.
The painting is on loan from the collection of hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen, who purchased it from casino mogul Steve Wynn for $155 million in 2013. Wynn had originally agreed to sell it 2006, but just one day after cementing the $139 million deal with Cohen—which would have made the work the most expensive piece of art ever sold at the time—Wynn accidentally put his elbow through the canvas when showing it off to friends (including screenwriter Nora Ephron, who preserved the tale for posterity), resulting in a three-inch tear. After a $90,000 restoration, the painting was appraised at $85 million—a significant decrease in valuation that saw Wynn sue his insurance company. Le Rêve was last shown publicly the Tate Modern’s fall 2018 exhibition “Picasso 1932, Love Fame Tragedy.”
The Gagosian show is a tribute to the life and work of the late art historian John Richardson, Picasso’s biographer, who died in March and arguably established the trend of non-selling, museum-quality gallery exhibitions when he organized “Mosqueteros” at Gagosian in 2009. Like at Richardson’s trademark gallery shows, none of the works in the latest exhibition, “Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline,” is technically for sale (although, as they say, anything can be for sale at the right price).
As Gagosian’s press release notes, Picasso took up with a variety of women, including “the bohemian Fernande Olivier; disciplined Olga Khokhlova; blonde Venus Marie-Thérèse; passionate artists Dora and Françoise,” and Sylvette David, who is described solely as “the young woman with a high ponytail.”
It remains to be seen if and how Picasso’s portraits will be reconsidered in the #MeToo era, a time when his misogyny, exploitation, and violence toward the women in his life has begun to complicate at least some conversations about his artistic genius and legacy.
“Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline” is one of several uptown gallery shows on view during Frieze Week that feature major works loaned by billionaire private collectors, as an article in Bloomberg points out. “De Kooning: Five Decades,” on view now at Mnuchin Gallery, includes a number of the artist’s of greatest hits—several of which are also on loan from Cohen. Meanwhile, Russian investor Roman Abramovich and British businessman Joe Lewis have lent several paintings to Acquavella Galleries’ “Lucian Freud: Monumental,” which brings together 13 of the artist’s large-scale nude portraits.
See more images of work included in “Picasso’s Women: Fernande to Jacqueline” below.
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