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Art museum exhibits draw large crowds

James Steward couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the throng of people at the Pablo Picasso exhibition recently at the U-M Museum of Art.

As director of the museum, Steward knew the show would be popular. But on that day, the Sunday before Labor Day, the crowds exceeded his expectations.

“There were so many people in the Picasso exhibition that they were actually forming their own line” to make sure they saw each work of art, he says.

That was just one of many well-attended days. People have flocked to the museum at near-record levels, surpassed in number only by the Claude Monet exhibition in early 1998.

An average of about 3,500 people a week have come to the museum, primarily to see the Picasso show and exhibitions of New York photography and Ansel Adams works, Steward says. During Welcome Week, 5,565 students, parents and others came to the museum. Steward had hoped for 2,000 visitors a week.

The numbers are especially impressive because the shows did so well during the summer, typically a slow time, Steward says. “We were able to maintain our attendance, even during the dog days of August,” he says.

Most of the paintings and photographs came from the more than 14,000 works of art in the museum’s collection, Steward says. Typically, only 3 to 4 percent of those are on display due to limited gallery space.

“We specifically organized this constellation of exhibitions to make a statement about how rich this collection really is,” he says.

On a recent day, Loren Harmon of Tecumseh strolled through the Picasso exhibition and said she was impressed by the array of his works on display, including a sketch of a woman.

“(I’m) marveling at the fact that he could really draw,” she said. “It’s interesting to see the different artistic talents.”

Here is a brief description of the three shows:

Picasso: Masterworks from the Collection is an overview of the artist’s career drawn almost exclusively from the holdings of his works at the museum. The exhibition features 31 pieces, including drawings, prints and oil paintings, from 1905 to 1968. Paintings featured in the exhibit include “The Bullfight” and “Portrait of Francoise.” The exhibit ends Sept. 15.

New York Observed: The Mythology of the City features photographs of the city’s skyscrapers, bridges and diverse people. It is timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. It features works by Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans and others. The exhibit ends Sept. 22.

Ansel Adams: A Centennial Celebration is an exhibit timed to the 100th anniversary of the photographer’s birth. It includes some of his famed landscape photos, as well as still lifes and portraits. The exhibit ends Sept. 22.


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