Everyone’s Taking Shots At Hannah Gadsby’s Anti-Picasso Exhibit

As an art show curator, critics are telling Gadsby to stick to comedy
Everyone’s Taking Shots At Hannah Gadsby’s Anti-Picasso Exhibit

Anyone who’s ever watched a Hannah Gadsby comedy special has received an art lecture hidden in plain sight among the jokes. Gadsby, who graduated from college with a degree in art history, set us straight on Vincent van Gogh in Nanette (his sunflowers were so vivid because of his medications), and the relationship between Renaissance artists and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Douglas. But their strongest opinions were reserved for Pablo Picasso. “I don’t like Picasso,” they said in Nanette. “I fucking hate him. He’s rotten in the face cavity. I hate Picasso! I hate him!” 

Gadsby’s takedown of Picasso’s misogyny is certainly convincing — there’s no defending a guy who said, “Each time I leave a woman, I should burn her. Destroy the woman, you destroy the past she represents.”

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Gadsby is still full of anti-Picasso vitriol, and now they’ve now put their disdain on public display with “It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby,” an exhibition that opened today at the Brooklyn Museum. According to the museum’s online promotion, the show “reckons with complex questions around misogyny, creativity, the art-historical canon and ‘genius.’” Clips from Nanette are on display, as well as comic captions around some of the art. But according to early reviews, the exhibition is nearly as bad as Gadsby’s pablo-matic pun. 

ARTnews calls the show “disastrous,” not finding fault with Gadsby’s intentions to redefine Picasso but with “the show’s disregard for art history, the discipline that Gadsby studied, practiced and abandoned after becoming frustrated with its patriarchal roots.”

The New York Times proclaims that the joke is on the Brooklyn Museum and its paying customers, saying that the exhibit ironically shortchanges women artists. The Times reviewer “left sad and embarrassed that this show doesn’t even try to do what it promises: put women artists on equal footing with the big guy.” 

Twitter is feasting on the Times review in particular, a brutal takedown that includes criticism like, “‘It’s Pablo-matic’ contents itself to stir in works by women from the Brooklyn Museum collection. These seem to have been selected more or less at random. … The artists who made them have been reduced here, in what may be this show’s only true insult, into mere raconteurs of women’s lives.”

Gadsby has Twitter defenders, mostly people protecting their comedy bona fides and Nanette while insisting that Picasso was an asshole. (No one is really contesting that one.) But we’re still looking for someone who’s actually been to the exhibit and liked it. “Hannah Gadsby's take on the (in)famous artist at the Brooklyn Museum is all about engaging in difficult dialogues,” says Anne Pasternak, the museum’s director. 

Something tells us this isn’t the difficult dialogue Gadsby or the museum had in mind. 

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