The Picasso press conference yesterday? Unlike Chihuly's, this one actually did change my mind.

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When Seattle Art Museum announced a few weeks ago that it will be hosting a major Picasso exhibition opening October 8, I was feeling neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed but simply whelmed.

But I started to get excited when, over lunch at SAM's Taste restaurant yesterday, the lights went down and curator Chiyo Ishikawa talked about what's coming. The images from all periods in his career rolled by...

from a study for the Demoiselles from 1907 to cubism (1909-1910)...

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to classicism (1918)...

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to responses to Spanish Civil War (1937-39)...

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to the head of a bull sculpture (1942), to the late stuff that everyone disses (1969).

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"This is truly a landmark exhibition," said SAM director Derrick Cartwright. "There has never been a major exhibition of Picasso's work in Seattle." (No Seattle museums own Picasso paintings, either.)

"Maggie [Walker, SAM board president] used an automotive analogy," Cartwright said. "This is what we built this museum to do, now let's see what it can do on the highway. This is the highway."

Tickets to Picasso will go on sale August 1.

SAM also introduced what else is coming up: Michael Darling's contemporary art show based on Kurt Cobain; a Nick Cave exhibition (both still soundsuits and performances of them); Darling's pairing of prints by James Ensor and Georg Baselitz (odd couple!); a loan show of Gauguin and Polynesia (I am not a Gauguin fan!); Barbara Brotherton's exploration of the real Quileute story behind the modern myth of the werewolf; more than 70 ukiyo-e prints donated to the museum; a retrospective of Seattle legend Alden Mason; and a very pleasant surprise: 20,000 Years of Modern Australian Aboriginal Art, a major exhibition unlike anything seen at an American museum, organized by SAM's Pam McClusky.

Nothing was announced for the Olympic Sculpture Park, which continues, to me, to be a source of disappointingly untapped potential.

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UPDATE: My bad! Marisa Sanchez is working with Trenton Doyle Hancock on an installation for the sculpture park pavilion, to open August 28. In press materials it is described as "a new large-scale sculpture and wall drawings that continue his dramatic narrative and will encourage visitor participation."

Still, I want more programming in the park!

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