Comedian Hannah Gadsby to Curate Show About Picasso’s ‘Complicated Legacy’ for Brooklyn Museum

Five years after they memorably skewered Pablo Picasso in their 2018 comedy special Nanette, Hannah Gadsby is organizing an exhibition about the artist for the Brooklyn Museum, where it will open this summer.

The show, titled “It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby,” is set to feature nearly 100 works, many of them done by women artists. Its description promises a new look at “the artist’s complicated legacy through a critical, contemporary, and feminist lens, even as it acknowledges his work’s transformative power and lasting influence.”

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Portrait of Melanie Kress.

On the artist list are some artists who’ve explicitly responded in the past to Picasso’s art such as Mickalene Thomas, who told the New York Times last week that she had interacted with his work as “a way to dismantle the modernist ‘boys club’ and also the artistic colonialism, derived from contact with Africa, that inspired or discovered Cubism.” Also included is the German artist Kathe Köllwitz, who even bought Picasso’s art while he was still alive.

But the short description for the show included some names whose work may not seem to have anything to do with Picasso, including Ana Mendieta, the late Cuban-born artist better known for feminist performances than dialoguing with modernist artists.

These works will be presented alongside an audio tour from Gadsby, who worked on the show with Catherine Morris, Lisa Small, and Talia Shiroma, all of whom are on the staff of the Brooklyn Museum.

“Highlighting Gadsby’s voice alongside those of many of the included artists, the exhibition reckons with complex questions around misogyny, creativity, the art-historical canon, and ‘genius,’” the show’s description says.

Gadsby gained wide attention in 2018 for taking up Picasso in the Netflix special Nanette, in which they labeled him a “passionate, tormented, genius, man-ballsack.” They praised him as a formal innovator and lambasted him as a misogynist, and went on to say that a failed attempt to take the male-dominated field of art history as their chosen discipline resulted in a realization: “I understand this world and my place in it. I don’t have one.”

“It’s Pablo-matic” is one of dozens of shows being staged this year to mark the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death in 1973. Many of the other exhibitions being staged are far more laudatory.

Some have continued to voice dissatisfaction with perspectives on Picasso’s legacy, with the Guardian even running an article last week asking if we should cancel him.

In that article, Morris, a co-curator of the Brooklyn Museum show, said, “Hannah Gadsby says there’s a lot that’s easy to hate about Picasso—but if the goal was to cancel Picasso, we wouldn’t be doing this show and Hannah wouldn’t be participating. However, I would say, as a curator of feminist art, that you can only look at Picasso today through a lens of feminist critique.”

On Twitter, some mocked the Brooklyn Museum show. Critic Dean Kissick tweeted, “Commemorating the anniversaries of our greatest artists’ deaths by having comedians that don’t tell jokes curate museum shows about how much of an asshole they were is, I guess, quite funny.”

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