Denver is abuzz in anticipation of the arrival of El Greco to Picasso from the Phillips Collection, with its romantic images, impressionist wonders and strong cubist portrayals. Opening this Saturday at the Denver Art Museum, El Greco to Picasso consists of 53 world-famous paintings and sculptures.
"I don't think we've ever had an exhibit that includes as many masterpieces as this," says DAM chief curator Timothy Standring, who admits he did somersaults and cartwheels upon learning that the show was coming here.Featuring works by 32 of Europe's most renowned artists, the dazzling lineup includes paintings by Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne, as well as bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Alberto Giacometti and Picasso. As Standring observes, "We all know the names. These are the works that make up the major background" of art history.
Standring expects the exhibit's largest painting, Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" -- an 1880 work depicting a festive group of friends lunching on the terrace at one of Renoir's favorite restaurants, the Maison Fournaise outside of Paris -- to be the star of the show. "Everybody knows it and immediately identifies with it," he says. "But curiously enough, most people don't know where it's permanently housed. I don't think that 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' will ever travel again."
Other highlights are sure to be Van Gogh's "Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles," Picasso's "The Blue Room," Degas's "Dancers at the Bar" and Cézanne's "Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears."
"My personal favorite would have to be Van Gogh's 'House at Auvers,' with the wheat fields, which he painted about six weeks before he died," says Standring. "It's just elegiac in its nature."
El Greco to Picasso will be on display here through January 4, 2004. The show is on tour while the Phillips Collection, its host museum in Washington, D.C., undergoes an expansion. It will make three more stops after Denver before heading home in January, 2005.
"The Phillips is a little collection with quite enormous assets," says Standring. "It's extraordinary that they're traveling like this."
The DAM, which is expecting sellout crowds from around the region, recommends purchasing tickets, which guarantee a certain date and time, in advance. One trick to getting around the ticket lines: Book an "Art Lovers" dinner or downtown hotel package. Participating restaurants -- including Palettes, Adega Restaurant + Wine Bar, Bistro Vendome, the Fourth Story Restaurant, Le Central and Appaloosa Grill -- have each come up with a signature dish in celebration of El Greco to Picasso, to be served alongside your VIP ticket, which can be used any day or time. The same goes for booking an overnight stay at any of five downtown hotels, including the Hotel Teatro, the Oxford Hotel and the Brown Palace.
"We find that a lot of people, especially regionally, take advantage of the packages," says museum spokeswoman Kelly Hurley. "It's a great way to see the show -- you get the perk of VIP tickets, which you can use anytime, plus you get to enjoy a nice night out on the town."
And to educate museum-goers further, audio tours of the chronologically arranged works are available for both adults and families. "This is an exhibit for everyone," says Standring. "You don't have to know anything about art history to enjoy looking at these beautiful paintings."