Guitars + Picasso

This past weekend, after checking out the Harry Houdini exhibit at the Jewish Museum, my friend and I went down to MoMA. I both love and hate the MoMA. I love that it has an amazing collection of art, but I hate that it’s always crowded. This past Saturday was no different. It was crowded, but I’m glad we went.

My main goal in visiting MoMA was to see Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 (on exhibit until June 6th). As we got ready to leave, my friend said, “I can see the wheels in Sara’s head turning quickly.”  She was so right.

I’m not sure what compelled me to see this exhibit. I’ve never been a huge fan of Picasso’s work, but as soon as I saw the photo of his cardboard  made Guitar, I was hooked. I think it may have reminded me of my constant love for the guitar. What I do know is that as soon as I saw it, I was reminded of the Bar Mitzvah invitation I designed two years ago for a client.

I should state for the record that I had not seen Picasso’s guitar work prior to this exhibit.   I have never been a fan of Picasso in general, but that changed as I walked from one piece to another completely enthralled by his use of color, materials and shape.  I loved the pieces where you could see a face of a man mixed in with the pieces of the guitar.

The guitars themselves, not the paintings of guitars, were breathtaking. I think my favorite is the one made of cardboard, simply because of his manipulation of paper  to create such a piece of beauty, but the metal one was just as striking.  If anything, the metal guitar showed the flexibility of a material that otherwise comes across as strong and inflexible.

What really struck me, however, were the last two pieces in the collection. They were guitars on paper made of a combination of things–paint, pencil sketching, wall paper and fabric. The colors used were a combination of gold and blue, one of my favorite combinations, and I loved just the way everything was overlapped. They are truly beautiful pieces. They are pieces I want to own! They are also pieces that inspired me in that moment.  It was that moment where my friend said, the “I can see the wheels in Sara’s head turning quickly,” statement and it was then that I understood just how powerful a piece of art can be.

Believe me I know the power of art. I’ve stood breathless before Van Gogh and Sargent and Miró and Calder and Gaudi, but I’ve never felt the way I felt about Picasso’s guitar before. I’ve never felt so inspired, so alive from a piece displayed in a museum. I’ve never compared my stationery to what another artist has done. By another artist, I mean not designers in the stationery field, but world known artists such as any of the ones listed above or even Picasso.

Another thing that really struck me, and made me realized that I was going to love this exhibit immediately, was reading about his methods of adding texture. For example, he sometimes mixed sand into his paint to create a sense of raised texture. He also incorporated fabrics into some of his guitar pieces and many times used pieces of sheet music, newspaper and even wall paper to add contrast.  Being that I like to use other papers, including scraps of fabric, I felt like I had found my artist kin spirit and I felt even more motivated and inspired.

As I walked out of the exhibit, I felt  ready to roar in regards to stationery design. I also bought a book about the exhibit. I want to make sure these pieces never leave me.

I recommend if you’re visiting NYC or you live here to check out this exhibit. If you’re an artist/designer/art lover, most definitely. If you love music, you should go as well.  You may not have the same experience I did, but you may just end up loving the pieces, or at the very least having expanded your mind.

p.s. I mentioned the guitar invitation I created two years ago and so below is a photo of that and a photo of Picasso’s cardboard guitar from a website. You can better see what I’m talking about.

Picasso's Cardboard Guitar


Guitar Invitation

p.p.s. If you do go, please share your thoughts on the exhibit. I’m curious!


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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

2 thoughts on “Guitars + Picasso”

  1. My wife and I were in N.Y.C. to attend the MET and saw the show on Sunday April 3rd. The weather outside was decent which kept the crowd on the light side. We were able to take our time and only had someone in front of us on a few occasions.I agree with the person that started at the Harry Houdini exhibit that the MOMA Picasso Guitars show is one that should not be missed. I have seen examples of his guitars in Philadelphia and Cleveland but to see this many in one location at the same time is mind blowing. I also agree that if you see his show you can never see Picasso’s work in the same way that you did before. He could make art from almost anything.

    1. Thanks so much for writing! I’m glad that you enjoyed both exhibits. I left both feeling renewed of ideas and can only hope that everyone that sees the Picasso Guitars exhibit leaves the same way. His work is stunning and I will never look at him in the same way again.

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