THE PICASSOS FROM THE BASEMENT
by Jerry Saltz
It took took the Metropolitan Museum of Art nearly 50 years to wake up to Pablo Picasso
. It didn’t own one of his paintings until 1946, when Gertrude Stein bequeathed that indomitable quasi-Cubistic picture of herself -- a portrait of the writer as a sumo Buddha -- to the Met, principally because she disliked the Museum of Modern Art. Yet even this didn’t provide the Met a shot in its curatorial arm. (As late as the 1950s, Met director Francis Henry Taylor was still calling MoMA "that whorehouse on 53rd Street.") Only in 1979, after hiring the curator William S. Lieberman away from MoMA, did it start its long game of catch-up. Today, after relying on the kindness of donors and spending untold millions, the Met owns more of his work than any American museum except MoMA.