UMFA home to ‘blockbuster’ exhibit

By By Erik Lopez

By Erik Lopez

New York City and Los Angeles are no longer the only cities with big-name art exhibits. The Utah Museum of Fine Art is now home to “Monet to Picasso,” a stunning collection of 74 modern European masterpieces.

The exhibit spans art’s formally innovative 100-year period from roughly 1864 to 1964. The big names that have bolstered contemporary art are in full show, from Courbet to Cezanne to Modigliani and Magritte and Moore.

“We have the staff and infrastructure so we can do more exhibits of this scale. Hopefully there will be more blockbuster exhibits of this kind,” said Jill Dawsey, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Art.

“Monet to Picasso” moves through the pieces chronologically, starting right before the impressionist period and winding its way through impressionism, post-impressionism, Picasso, and through abstraction and surrealism.

“In the show you have this progression of artists getting more and more abstract and drawing attention to the materiality of the medium,” Dawsey said.

As Dawsey notes, this chronological structure shows art’s formal permutations during one of its most fertile periods.

“The collection has many impressionist paintings that people will have seen in reproduction but never in person,” Dawsey said. These paintings include Manets, Cezannes and Courbets. Other highlights include Monet’s “The Red Kerchief: Portrait of Mme. Monet,” a picture of Monet’s wife right before she died; a painting by Berthe Morisot, one of the only female impressionists and a painting of her by Manet; Gauguin’s “In the Waves” from 1889; two Van Gogh paintings with their thick, agitated impasto surface; Rodin’s iconic “The Thinker”; a room full of Picassos which include his Blue Period masterpiece, “La Vie”; and an early Dali titled “The Dreamer.”

The exhibit took years to plan and execute. During a planned renovation of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the CMA decided to start sending out its amazing installation for the first, and probably last, time. Instead of the usual cities such as New York and Los Angeles, it decided to bring its wares to cities that don’t normally host this caliber of show.

“They have an extraordinary collection in Cleveland,” Dawsey said. “When they were looking for venues to host it they wanted to find more up-and-coming cities to find new audiences such as Vancouver, Nashville, Detroit and Salt Lake City. (The exhibit) has had record attendance in all these cities.”

The show has been up for a little more than a week and a half, and as of print time the UMFA is already seeing record attendance levels.

Even though Dawsey has been curator of modern and contemporary art for only three months, she has some exciting things planned for the museum after this exhibit is packed up and shipped back to Cleveland. One of these things is showcasing some Robert Smithson drawings and paintings in October.

“We recently acquired a new painting by Smithson,” Dawsey said. “People don’t really know him as a painter but he spent the first few years of his career painting. We have two drawings by Smithson that we unearthed…it is important to educate people about the jetty and get them going out there.”

Other future endeavors of the UMFA include new multimedia spaces, film programming and collaborations with other groups both on and off campus, including the Salt Lake Art Center and the American West Center.

“We are a small institution and we are growing so we are going through some growing pains,” Dawsey said. “I think there are various challenges trying to get people to know that we are here, on the university campus. I am really excited about serving the university’s needs and getting university students to come more and more.”

“Monet to Picasso” started June 23 and will run through Sept. 21. The Cost for students, faculty and senior citizens is $10 and regular admission is $15. The UMFA is located at 410 Campus Center Drive near the Business Loop and is a short stroll from the South Campus TRAX station.

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