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Dayton Art Institute opens special exhibition "Picasso to Hockney: Modern Art on Stage"
Léon Bakst, Costume design for Vaslav Nijinksy as Chinese Dancer in Les Orientales, 1917 (detail), watercolor and graphite on paper. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of the Tobin Foundation for Theatre Arts.

DAYTON, OH.- Stages may still be dark at theatres around the country, but the Dayton Art Institute will bring the spirit of the performing arts to life with its latest Special Exhibition.

Picasso to Hockney: Modern Art on Stage reveals what happened when prominent painters and sculptors turned their attention to the stage and collaborated with writers, musicians and dancers. The exhibition opens October 17 and will be on view at the DAI through January 17, 2021. Current museum hours are Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sundays, noon – 5 p.m. The exhibition

Picasso to Hockney contains works by some of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, including Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Natalia Gontcharova, Joan Miró, Louise Nevelson, Robert Indiana, Jim Dine and many others. It pulls back the curtain on a lesser known but equally inspiring aspect of these artists’ creative expressions—their collaborations as designers of sets, costumes, lighting, scenery and, in some instances, complete performances. These artists contributed stunning designs to world-renowned plays, operas and ballets, such as Pulcinella, La Création du Monde (The Creation of the World), King Arthur and The Mother of Us All.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy stunning works, which were made for the stage by major artists who are known primarily for their paintings and sculpture,” said Dr. Jerry N. Smith, the DAI’s Chief Curator and Director of Education. “The art on display, since it was created for the theater, offers a novel look at major art movements of the 20th century. For example, to see a breathtaking costume created by Henri Matisse that was once worn by an actor on stage, or a series of painted designs by Jim Dine for stage sets, helps us appreciate the artists and their creativity in new ways.”

Organized by the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, Picasso to Hockney features 115 objects of set and costume design, and it offers fresh insights into artists and movements, from Cubism and Constructivism to Surrealism and Pop Art. The exhibition presents a rare opportunity to experience more than 100 years of original performance designs by renowned visual artists who took their creativity to the stage. Spectacular costumes from the theater, such as dresses by Lesley Dill, and several costumes by Robert Indiana, are also included in the exhibition. Picasso to Hockney invites visitors to explore how these visual artists challenged conventional theatre practices and often redefined their own work in the process.

Drawn from the McNay Art Museum’s Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, Picasso to Hockney aligns with Robert L. B. Tobin’s belief that, “designs come to life only when they are used.” The late San Antonio art collector and performance advocate ensured his collection would be accessible to the public. Tobin hoped this collection would serve to educate and inspire future generations of young theatre makers.

“Dayton is known for its vibrant arts community, so it’s only fitting to present this exciting combination of visual and performing arts from the Tobin Collection at the Dayton Art Institute,” said DAI Director & CEO Michael R. Roediger. “Picasso to Hockney shines an inspiring light on the arts, as well as the artists who bring the arts to life. Your Dayton Art Institute is open and ready to safely welcome you to the museum. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to view this amazing exhibition from our friends at the McNay Art Museum and support the DAI.”

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