I recently had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Perth to install Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters, the first in a series of six exhibitions organised by MoMA for AGWA. After more than thirty hours of transit (including the loss of a day to the time zone void!), I made it to the other side of the world and arrived at the Gallery to see quite a few familiar faces. What a strange and wonderful feeling, after so long a journey, to be greeted by not only my MoMA colleagues – the registrars and conservators who had already arrived to oversee the beginning of the installation – but also by familiar faces like Matisse’s Jeanettes, Léger’s Big Julie, and Calder’s Marion Greenwood.
There were new friendly faces, too; the incredibly welcoming staff of AGWA – some of whom I’d met during a brief visit last year – and some of whom I’d only met over increasingly frequent emails to solidify every detail of the exhibition. The galleries themselves, with their new walls built and painted for the exhibition, also felt at once familiar and new – the life-size realisation of the scale model I’d worked with in New York.
Over the next week and half, AGWA’s Director Stefano Carboni, Curator Robert Cook, and I settled on the placement of the more than 120 paintings, sculptures, drawings, multiples, photographs and films that had come from New York. It is always instructive to see well-known works in a fresh context, and I was excited to see some new juxtapositions emerge within the dramatic angles of AGWA’s galleries. At the beginning of the show, for example, the reclining figures in Picasso’s Seated Bather, Matisse’s Large Seated Nude, and Matisse’s Goldfish and Sculpture all seemed to echo each other. Further into the exhibition, a doorway connecting the Duchamp and Johns galleries made manifest the vital influence of the former artist on the latter.
I’d love to know which of the works in the show prove to be the favorites with AGWA’s visitors. And I’m looking forward to returning next year to install another exciting exhibition, about how modern artists reinvent the traditional genres of portrait, still life, and landscape (opening June 2013).
Samantha Friedman is an Assistant Curator in the Department of Drawings at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where she has most recently organized the exhibition Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration. She has co-curated Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters for The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. She received a BA in Art History and English Literature from Northwestern University, and an MA in Modern Art History from Columbia University.