What I learned on my last visit to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera had a tumultuous relationship that would today be summed up as, “it’s complicated.”
They were instant friends upon meeting, became each other’s confidants, but then had a falling out. And the irony of that? Their career trajectories were almost spitting images. They both rejected the status quo and found their artistic voices in their respective cultures. In other words, Picasso and Rivera were some of history’s greatest frenemies.
I’ve long been a LACMA member and try to visit at least once monthly. Sometimes I head there for a strategic strike to take in a certain exhibit. But, whenever I have time, I try to make a whole afternoon of it. And the current exhibit, Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time, warrants a visit. Here’s how to visit the Picasso and Rivera exhibit and make an afternoon of it.
For our visit, we wanted all the intel and had the benefit of a private docent tour. We got the inside track from long-time docent, Eleanor Baril whose passion for LACMA (and all things Latin American art) is infectious. If you're able to, plan your visit to take advantage of scheduled docent tours because it helps bring the exhibit to life in a way that simply reading the captions wouldn't achieve.
When I lived in Paris, visiting the Picasso museum was somewhat of a Sunday ritual so I feel pretty well versed about Picasso. On the other hand, I had come across Rivera’s work during my travels but hadn’t learned much about him. To be honest, a high school AP art history class and Alfred Molina’s depiction of him in Frida was the extent of my Diego Rivera knowledge.
But Eleanor’s insight more than made up for that. It turns out Picasso and Rivera first met in Paris and had major respect for each other’s work — it’s said the day they met they spent a whole afternoon and evening talking about art into the wee hours. Their art is always uniquely their own, but sometimes so shockingly similar that even I mixed up who painted the following two pieces. Any gueses?
THE VARIOUS ERAS
Through over 100 pieces of art that span the artists' decades-long careers, the exhibit goes deep. What really stands out is how the exhibit shows the artists' respective place in history. Each room of the exhibit compares the artists’ similar yet distinct career paths. From their classic academic training to their pioneering of Cubism and their return to their cultural roots.
This exhibit showcases how both artists transitioned from their classic training to find their distinct perspective. It puts the art in the context of the current events of the time and how they reacted to the world around them — be it something as small as a fractured relationship to something as monumental as the Mexican Revolution or WWI.
Once you layer the era's history on top of ther their work, it begins to feel feels like a peek into that moment in time. The exhibit catalog explores this connection in even more detail and it's a nice accompaniment to the exhibit.
BE SURE TO GRAB A BITE
There are two things I always try do when going to the musuem: go with a friend and leave time afterward for a bite or a glass of wine. At LACMA that means experiencing an exhibit then heading over to Ray's or Stark Bar for a bite so that I can nerd out my friends about the exhibit. And, just like a good movie, I feel like you need to let art just marinate for a minute (ie you can't rush off to do something else) so that you fully experience it.
A FEW LAST DETAILS
Now that I’ve talked this up, you should know that the Picasso and Rivera exhibit is only on view until May 7th. After that it will head to Museo del Palacio des Bellas Artes in Mexico City from June 14th to September 17th. Obviously, for those of us in Southern California, it’s a lot easier to get to LACMA than to Mexico City so you’ll want to visit soon!
For all other details like hours and where to purchase tickets, head here. You can also go to either LACMA Ticket Office to purchase your tickets day of or in advance. Oh, and a quick pro-tip! Your $25 entrance includes not only access to Picasso and Rivera but also general admission.
If you want to dig deeper into the Latin American side of things, you could spend hours exploring the Latin American Art section of the museum or the current exhibit on Maya Ceramics. Otherwise, a few of my favorite things to visit are Levitated Mass, Urban Light, Metropolis II, Miracle Mile, and either of the James Turrell exhibits.
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