Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Family Guide: The Steins Collect at the SFMOMA and Seeing Gertrude Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Henri Matisse, Woman with a Hat, 1905; oil on canvas.
SFMOMA, Bequest of Elise S. Haas; © Succession H. Matisse, Paris
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell
Who said kids and museums don't belong in the same sentence? Make a child imagine what Paris was like when he could chat with Henri Matisse over tea and cookies. Tell him about sisters and brothers refusing to share. Explain a rose is a rose is a rose evenings with music and snacks. Then you'll get his undivided attention even if the topic is the birth of modern art at the turn of the 20th century. Art with a story to tell takes on a life of its own and is a lot more palatable to kids than dry paintings. If you are in San Francisco this summer, take the kiddos to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where a good family epic, a strong storyline, and world-class paintings achieve pictorial fireworks. Welcome to The Steins Collect exhibition.

Jean-Paul Cluzel, director of the RMN, speaks after SFMOMA
 director Neal Benezra (standing, right). Photo by Frog Mom
Opened just last week, this exhibition spotlights the avant-garde art collection of young Bay Area transplants in Paris. These kids grew up in San Francisco and Oakland, their dad was in the cable car business, and yet they became prestigious art collectors in Paris - then the center of the art world. This rise to art stardom is nothing short of amazing and thanks to associated family programs and a lively narrative, children too can enjoy the exhibition.

Pablo Picasso, Boy Leading a Horse, 1905–6. The Museum of Modern Art,
New York, the William S. Paley Collection, 1964; © Estate of Pablo Picasso
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York;
Photo: The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
I was lucky to attend the media preview of this collaboration by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN) in Paris, the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art in San Francisco and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. As San Francisco is the only city on the West Coast where the exhibition will be shown, the SFMOMA expects The Steins Collect to be so busy visitors will need to buy timed tickets to see it.

With a child, here is how I recommend to get the most out of the exhibition with minimal parental stress.

1. If your child is the runner type, you'll be able to see all 13 rooms without any problem. For a strictly visual take on The Steins Collect, stop at the SFMOMA's Haas Atrium and borrow an iPod with The Country Dog Gentlemen Travel to Extraordinary Worlds, an interactive tour of the museum for kids. While the app is not Steins Collect-specific, it can be used in various contexts and guides kids through rooms with playful prompts and activities.

2. If your child is the lingering type, stop in only half the rooms and walk by through the other rooms. My personal favorites, for color and subject, were:
Pablo Picasso, Soupe, 1902. 
  • Leo's Arrival in Paris - terrific impressionnist nudes and bathers, 
  • Discovering Matisse and Picasso -that's where you find Matisse's Woman with a hat and a serene Boy leading horses by Picasso - don't forget to check the giant pic of the Steins' apartment, a Real Simple wall clutter dream, 
  • Sarah and Michael - kids will appreciate Picasso's sweet family scene Soup and little girls will marvel at Manguin's La Coiffure while little boys will enjoy Matisse's Boy with a Butterfly Net,
  • Picasso and the birth of cubism - though I'm not a huge fan of that period, it's so different from the rest that kids should like the radical change of style, in particular Picasso's Head of a sleeping woman,
  • Picasso and friends - amongst the Spanish painter's friends, Marie Laurencin stands out with sweetly mischievous group portraits,
  • Pablo Picasso, Head of a Sleeping Woman (Study for Nude with Drapery)
    1907 Collection The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Estate of John Hay
     Whitney, 1983;  © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), 
    New York; Photo: The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource
  • Gertrude after Leo - got a kid interested in music? Try to find the music instrument in Picasso's Woman with a guitar, it is a fun guessing game,
  • Gertrude and Alice - the extravagant and rebellious Francis Picabia appears in his late years as a friend of Gertrude Stein.    
3. If by extraordinary coincidence your child is the contemplative type, a young and  thoughtful mind, do take an audio-guide and see your child hop from painting to photo, listening to music and sound recordings, as well as background info on the art. Developed by ear print productions, the audio-guide includes stories like this one (Rousseau Banquet) with accordions and a Parisian cafe scene.

Those are just a few ideas to spice up the visit with a child, but feel free to improvise according to your children's tastes. You can also participate in a few family events centered on the exhibition this summer.

SFMOMA Family events and discounts around The Steins Collect 
  • Starting in July, Family Sunday will be every  Sunday, not just 1st and 3rd Sundays. This means that every Sunday there will be additional activities for children ages 4-11, including at least one hands on art making activities, as well as family tours, children’s book readings, and more. Each week will feature a different book reading by children's authors including Amy Novesky (Me, Frida), Jeanne Walker Harvey (My Hands Sing The Blues, available September 2011), and Lynn Hazen (The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail). 
  •  If your child is a mods member and he/she brings in an adult, you do not pay the general admission to see The Steins Collect but only the surcharge, so it would be just $7 instead of $25.
  • On June 5th, Gotta COLLECT. Kids get in free! 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Explore a Stein-inspired salon for families in the Schwab room in addition to regular Family Sunday programming. The Schwab room will be converted into a living room with a continuous reading of The World is Round by Gertrude Stein as well as a reading of Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter. There will also be drawing activities in the living room as well Museums in a Box activities at the Koret Studio and sculpture, photo and drawing gallery art making activities. The gallery activities will be on the 2nd and 5th floors. 
Seeing Gertrude Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
George Platt Lynes, Gertrude Stein, Bilignin, 1931, toned gelatin silver print.  Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art, 
The Cone Collection, Gift of Adelyn D. Breeskin BMA 1985.3, © Estate of George Platt Lynes, 
Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories, Contemporary Jewish Museum (May 12, 2011 – September 6, 2011).
It's one thing to see the art, it's quite another to understand the multi-layered formidable woman behind the collection. Seeing Gertrude Stein includes five stories on who Gertrude Stein was, or who she wanted to be remembered as.

After the SFMOMA (or another day), cross the street corner at Mission and 3rd to head to the Contemporary Jewish Museum and go to the second floor for a complete discovery of this mighty woman. 

Even if you've read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (the only book by Gertrude Stein I've read), you can't completely grasp the character until you visit this exhibition. She tried her creative juices at everything: poetry, essays, music, ballet, operas, fashion (shockingly) - what did she miss?

Kids will appreciate the video projections, the iPad listening station (hear Gertrude Stein speak) and - my favorite - the reproduction of a blue wall paper with white doves that decorated the walls of a photograph taken by Sir Cecil Beaton. 

Now enjoy. It's going to be a Steins summer.

No comments: