Cubists at the Movies

Mon, May 10, 2010

Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies, screening Wednesday, May 12, especially for our members, has a fascinating premise: how early films added to the stew of revolutionary ideas about space, time, motion, and representation that nourished cubism. With Martin Scorsese as narrator and executive producer, Pace Gallery founder Arne Glimcher as director, and commentary from a lengthy roster of distinguished artists and scholars, it also has plenty of star power. Then there's the inherent intrigue of Picasso and Braque themselves and the bohemian milieu of Paris in the years before WW I.

But for Wex audiences—especially those with long memories, curiosity about how Columbus discovered contemporary art, or interest in cultural philanthropy—some background about the director and his gallery might spark even more anticipation. Arne Glimcher's Pace Gallery has long been a preeminent showcase for modern and contemporary art, with two Manhattan exhibition spaces, another one in Beijing, and a few other affiliates. From 1965 through the 1970s, Columbus had a Pace Gallery too.

It was run by Mr. Glimcher's mother, Eva Glimcher, who cofounded Pace with her son in Boston in 1960. After Arne Glimber opened the New York gallery in 1963, Eva Glimcher headed the operation in Boston, then moved it to Columbus, where she lived until her death in 1982. Shows at the Pace Gallery in Columbus—by such artists as Louise Nevelson, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol—introduced more than a few fledgling arts enthusiasts and collectors to the pleasures of art from the present moment, long before there was a Wexner Center or a Short North Gallery Hop. Ronald A. Pizzuti and David Barker both have fond memories of the Pace Gallery from early in their collecting days, as do all kinds of people (like me) who browsed without buying.

Meanwhile, Arne Glimcher kept very busy with the Pace Gallery in New York (and artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Arnes Martin, and David Hockney) but found himself increasing attracted to the movies. He loaned art for an auction scene and had a bit part as a bidder in Still of the Night, a 1982 murder mystery directed by Robert Benton, was among the producers for several popular films (including Gorillas in the Mist), and made his directorial debut with The Mambo Kings in 1993. He also nursed a conviction that the development of cubism was intertwined with early filmmaking as practiced by Georges Méliès and others. Eventually, in 2002, he set curator and art historian Bernice Rose on a treasure hunt for evidence to support his theory.

The result was a landmark 2007 exhibition at Pace's 57th Street location, with paintings and collages borrowed from major museums and private collections from around the world. It was one of the most ambitious scholarly projects ever undertaken by the gallery. What's more, none of the works in the exhibition was for sale, clearly an unusual situation for a commercial gallery. That show in turn is the basis for this 2008 movie, which screened at the Toronto Film Festival. A review in Variety describes it as “a dazzling, opulent treasure trove of early cinema.”

By the way, another of Eva Glimcher's sons is Herb Glimcher, founder of the Columbus-based Glimcher company, a leader in the development and management of malls and shopping and lifestyle centers. Herb and DeeDee Glimcher, his wife, established the endowment fund that supports the Wexner Center's annual Glimcher Lecture on architecture, design, and related fields. Many members of the extended Glimcher family have been and continue to be actively involved in cultural organizations and endeavors across the city and country.

When you come to see Picasso and Braque Go to the Movies, give a thought to the people and places that helped launch your own interest in the arts and in the movies, and so helped bring you to the screening. I'm guessing it might stir up some fine memories.

Jean Dubuffet, Vaches au pre (Cows in a meadow), 1954

Reserve your tickets now for Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection, on view through Dec 31. Learn more about the exhibition.

Artists featured in Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection

Learn more about the artists represented in Transfigurations at our dedicated website. (Educators will also find curriculum resources to support their K–12 classrooms.)