Pablum Picasso

Moving beyond its current Picasso exhibit, a new vision for the Whitney

Since 2003, the Whitney has tried to send the message that it wants to be the art world's museum. This daring bifurcation-renovation is a way to make that happen. If the Whitney and its intrepid board have the nerve to allow their excellent architect Renzo Piano to renovate a massive old building—even a gigantic Quonset hut would do—and create ample space for its collection and for recent and contemporary art, it would change everything. It would be a colossal vote of confidence in contemporary art and a tremendous thank-you to all you people who, over the last 25 years, have made New York such an amazing place for art. If the Whitney builds that we will come.

Marcia Tucker

Detail of Seated Woman With Wrist Watch, 1932
photo: Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS
Detail of Seated Woman With Wrist Watch, 1932


Picasso and American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
Through January 28

Marcia Tucker was a hero of do-it-yourself aesthetic rabble-rousing. She changed the art world a little bit—which is a lot. On October 17 Tucker died at her home in Santa Barbara, California. She was 66 and had been living with cancer.

Tucker's story is legend in the art world: In 1975, as curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art, she organized a Richard Tuttle exhibition. The show was trounced by critics; museum trustees and higher-ups turned on her; she was canned. Then, Tucker did something people often talk about doing but rarely do. She started her own place called the New Museum, an upstart institution dedicated to contemporary art that was the last alternative museum of its kind formed in New York. Nudge-nudge, young disgruntled museum people.

Tucker created something lasting, chaotic, and effective. As she put it in 1998, "Richard Tuttle ruined my life." Of course, she meant that in a sense he made her life. Tucker also excelled at ending things. In 1997, after 22 years of directing her beloved institution, she did another thing people don't do much: She voluntarily stepped aside. Nudge-nudge, museum people everywhere, and I suppose also art critics. Like I said, Tucker was a hero.

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