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The Steins Collect Wayne Koestenbaum
“For me, it is I, and it is the only reproduction of me which is always I, for me.” Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1906, by Pablo Picasso (collection Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) might be a peacock but it’s only one of many: dozens of works from holdings of the Stein family (that’s our Gertrude, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael’s wife Sarah) will appear together for the first time in a generation starting on Saturday. SFMOMA, in a new exhibit entitled “The Steins Collect” (May 21–September 6), has drawn on collections from around the world to include works by Matisse, Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and many others. As the museum twittered the other day, Sarah said to Matisse in 1937: “The best propaganda we can make for modern art is to show your paintings in America.” And yet it was the Stein Saturday salons in Paris that introduced so many of these artists, including Picasso, to their first audiences.
To top it off, looks like heaps of talks and events will revolve around the show this summer, including a marathon reading of The Making of Americans by Bay Area poets on June 4, and a lecture on June 2 with none other than Wayne Koestenbaum, who once said, within the context of a talk on Stein for Pen American Center called “Herself and Strangers:” “Finally, in the twenty-first century, let there be room for the lazy, libidinal, and ludic Stein, whose texts practice the art of happiness, and whose experimental methods have as much to do with a religious ceremony as with a properly literary act. Her verbal erotics are one long performative ‘I write,’ serving as Stein’s substitute for the groom’s ‘I do’ or the priest’s ‘I bless.’” It is certainly not the only writing from Koestenbaum on the subject (“A repeated refrain in Four Saints is the flat question, ‘Who settles a private life,’” he points out in The Queen’s Throat .) Lucky for us, the museum has commissioned a new piece from the poet and essayist, this time on painting and writing.
All that and more at the SFMOMA website here.