Instead of the mega-exhibits of the past few years — on order of King Tut and the Impressionists — The City’s museums will offer a great variety of fascinating art in 2011. The diversity includes Picasso in two places, masterworks of ancient Mexico, paper works by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave, and the country’s first substantive exhibit of Balinese art.
“The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave” features pulp fashion by the Belgian artist, who uses the simplest of material, including rag paper. Painting and manipulating paper, Borchgrave forms eye-deceiving trompe l’oeil masterpieces of elaborate dresses inspired by early European painting. Her models include the Renaissance finery of the Medici family and gowns worn by Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette. More recent influences are from Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. The California Legion of Honor is the first American museum to dedicate an entire exhibition to Borchgrave’s work.
[Feb. 5-June 5. $6-$10. California Legion of Honor, 100 34th Ave., Lincoln Park, S.F.; (415) 750-3600, www.famsf.org]
Olmec of past millennia
“Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico” exhibits artifacts of the Americas’ oldest civilization, going back to 2000 B.C. The de Young Museum will feature more than 100 objects, drawn primarily from Mexican national collections and 25 museums. The Olmec are best known for creating colossal heads carved from giant boulders discovered in the mid-19th century and a source of fascination for the public and archaeologists alike. The exhibit also includes large-scale thrones and monumental stelae in addition to small-scale vessels, figures, adornments and masks.
[Feb. 19-May 8. $6-$10. de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F.; (415) 750-3531, www.famsf.org]
“5,000 Years of Answering Questions with Questions” coming to the Contemporary Jewish Museum is a computer-assisted sound installation by Ken Goldberg and Gil Gershoni. With search and questioning at the core of Jewish cultural and spiritual identity — reflected in traditions from the Talmud to the Seder table — the Bay Area artists reflect on this ancient and enduring inquisitive impulse in a new installation. The sound environment reacts to visitors’ movements through space to pose questions from a variety of sources including the Torah, literature, popular culture and the public.
[March 31-July 31. $8-$10. Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. S.F.; (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.org]
Picasso, etc. from Gertrude Stein
Leaving her Oakland school days behind, Gertrude Stein made her home in Paris. There, along with her brothers, she collected a great deal of art, some from her famous friends. “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” — co-organized by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris — includes pieces first shown in prestigious Paris salons hosted by the American expatriates, who acquired works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Juan Gris and others.
[May 21-Sept. 6. $9-$15. Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., S.F.; (415) 357-4000, www.sfmoma.org]
Picasso from the Picasso Museum
The de Young Museum hosts more than 100 works by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), coming from the permanent collection of Paris’ Musée National Picasso. Just as Impressionists arrived in The City during the renovation of Musée d’Orsay, the Picasso exhibit is made possible by the temporary closure of that museum. The show includes paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints drawn from every phase of the artist’s career. From “La Celestine” (1904) to the 1970 self-portrait “The Matador,” the exhibit includes many famous works, such as Expressionist studies for “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and “Cubist Man with a Guitar.”
[June 11-Sept. 25. $6-$10 not including special exhibition fee. de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F.; (415) 750-3531, www.famsf.org]