Are the people who run our museums aware that their solicitude for museumgoers sounds a lot like condescension? A few weeks ago, Ford Bell, president of the American Association of Museums, explained that the Metropolitan Museum of Art “can be intimidating” for people who don’t “already know something about art and have a familiarity with the place.” Thomas Campbell, the Met’s very own director, is singing the same song.
“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.