Gary Tinterow

Playing for Keeps

Cézanne’s Card Players Metropolitan Museum of Art Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 Museum of Modern Art Play, beloved by Dadaists and self-described artistic renegades of all stripes, is as old as humankind, perhaps even older than work, to which it is inevitably opposed. For every liberal or radical or romantic who has embraced the spirit of play as a key to freedom, there is a conservative or a classicist who has emphasized the essential place of play in the stabilization of society and the disciplining of desires. For some, play equals anarchy. For others, play equals order.

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“Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” is wretchedly installed. I cannot imagine what Gary Tinterow, the curator at the museum who organized the show, thought he was doing. Tinterow has crammed so many paintings, drawings, and prints so close together that it is virtually impossible to see anything on its own terms or to make distinctions between major and minor works. In this absurdly overcrowded hanging, key paintings—Gertrude Stein (1905-06), Woman in White (1923), Dora Maar in an Arm Chair (1939)—are treated like straphangers in a rush-hour subway.

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