Family Guide: The Steins Collect at the SFMOMA and Seeing Gertrude Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Henri Matisse, Woman with a Hat, 1905; oil on canvas.
SFMOMA, Bequest of Elise S. Haas; © Succession H. Matisse, Paris
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Ben Blackwell

Who said kids and museums don’t belong in the same sentence? Make a child imagine what Paris was like when he could chat with Henri Matisse over tea and cookies. Tell him about sisters and brothers refusing to share. Explain a rose is a rose is a rose evenings with music and snacks. Then you’ll get his undivided attention even if the topic is the birth of modern art at the turn of the 20th century. Art with a story to tell takes on a life of its own and is a lot more palatable to kids than dry paintings. If you are in San Francisco this summer, take the kiddos to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where a good family epic, a strong storyline, and world-class paintings achieve pictorial fireworks. Welcome to The Steins Collect exhibition.

Opened just last week, this exhibition spotlights the avant-garde art collection of young Bay Area transplants in Paris. These kids grew up in San Francisco and Oakland, their dad was in the cable car business, and yet they became prestigious art collectors in Paris – then the center of the art world. This rise to art stardom is nothing short of amazing and thanks to associated family programs and a lively narrative, children too can enjoy the exhibition.

I was lucky to attend the media preview of this collaboration by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN) in Paris, the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art in San Francisco and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. As San Francisco is the only city on the West Coast where the exhibition will be shown, the SFMOMA expects The Steins Collect to be so busy visitors will need to buy timed tickets to see it.

With a child, here is how I recommend to get the most out of the exhibition with minimal parental stress.

1. If your child is the runner type, you’ll be able to see all 13 rooms without any problem. For a strictly visual take on The Steins Collect, stop at the SFMOMA’s Haas Atrium and borrow an iPod with The Country Dog Gentlemen Travel to Extraordinary Worlds, an interactive tour of the museum for kids. While the app is not Steins Collect-specific, it can be used in various contexts and guides kids through rooms with playful prompts and activities.

2. If your child is the lingering type, stop in only half the rooms and walk by through the other rooms. My personal favorites, for color and subject, were:

    • Leo’s Arrival in Paris – terrific impressionnist nudes and bathers,
    • Discovering Matisse and Picasso -that’s where you find Matisse’s Woman with a hat and a serene Boy leading horses by Picasso – don’t forget to check the giant pic of the Steins’ apartment, a Real Simple wall clutter dream,
    • Sarah and Michael – kids will appreciate Picasso’s sweet family scene Soup and little girls will marvel at Manguin’s La Coiffure while little boys will enjoy Matisse’s Boy with a Butterfly Net,
    • Picasso and the birth of cubism – though I’m not a huge fan of that period, it’s so different from the rest that kids should like the radical change of style, in particular Picasso’s Head of a sleeping woman,
    • Picasso and friends – amongst the Spanish painter’s friends, Marie Laurencin stands out with sweetly mischievous group portraits,
  • Gertrude after Leo – got a kid interested in music? Try to find the music instrument in Picasso’s Woman with a guitar, it is a fun guessing game,
  • Gertrude and Alice – the extravagant and rebellious Francis Picabia appears in his late years as a friend of Gertrude Stein.

3. If by extraordinary coincidence your child is the contemplative type, a young and  thoughtful mind, do take an audio-guide and see your child hop from painting to photo, listening to music and sound recordings, as well as background info on the art. Developed by ear print productions, the audio-guide includes stories like this one (Rousseau Banquet) with accordions and a Parisian cafe scene.

Those are just a few ideas to spice up the visit with a child, but feel free to improvise according to your children’s tastes. You can also participate in a few family events centered on the exhibition this summer.SFMOMA Family events and discounts around The Steins Collect 

  • Starting in July, Family Sunday will be every  Sunday, not just 1st and 3rd Sundays. This means that every Sunday there will be additional activities for children ages 4-11, including at least one hands on art making activities, as well as family tours, children’s book readings, and more. Each week will feature a different book reading by children’s authors including Amy Novesky (Me, Frida), Jeanne Walker Harvey (My Hands Sing The Blues, available September 2011), and Lynn Hazen (The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail).
  •  If your child is a mods member and he/she brings in an adult, you do not pay the general admission to see The Steins Collect but only the surcharge, so it would be just $7 instead of $25.
  • On June 5th, Gotta COLLECT. Kids get in free! 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Explore a Stein-inspired salon for families in the Schwab room in addition to regular Family Sunday programming. The Schwab room will be converted into a living room with a continuous reading of The World is Round by Gertrude Stein as well as a reading of Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter. There will also be drawing activities in the living room as well Museums in a Box activities at the Koret Studio and sculpture, photo and drawing gallery art making activities. The gallery activities will be on the 2nd and 5th floors.

Seeing Gertrude Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

It’s one thing to see the art, it’s quite another to understand the multi-layered formidable woman behind the collection. Seeing Gertrude Stein includes five stories on who Gertrude Stein was, or who she wanted to be remembered as.

After the SFMOMA (or another day), cross the street corner at Mission and 3rd to head to the Contemporary Jewish Museum and go to the second floor for a complete discovery of this mighty woman.

Even if you’ve read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (the only book by Gertrude Stein I’ve read), you can’t completely grasp the character until you visit this exhibition. She tried her creative juices at everything: poetry, essays, music, ballet, operas, fashion (shockingly) – what did she miss?

Kids will appreciate the video projections, the iPad listening station (hear Gertrude Stein speak) and – my favorite – the reproduction of a blue wall paper with white doves that decorated the walls of a photograph taken by Sir Cecil Beaton.

Now enjoy. It’s going to be a Steins summer.

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

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One Response to “Family Guide: The Steins Collect at the SFMOMA and Seeing Gertrude Stein at the Contemporary Jewish Museum”

  1. May 16, 2012 at 7:02 am, mabonnetoile said:

    Dear  ,
    they are right looking for the historic truth about Gertrude Stein in this however wonderfull exhibition,”The Steins Collect;Matisse,Picasso,Cezanne and the Parisian Avant Garde” in NewYork at the Metropolitan Museum of Art .

    Because what a pleasure to see the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira .Who was as Picasso an antifascist and antinazi artist .Persecuted by Franco and the Nazis .
    But who is in this exhibition ,thanks to Rebecca Rabinow and Edward Burns, perhaps
    the only one artist would fought them weapons in his hands .
    Whose father was in jail after the spanish civil war .So Riba-Rovira is beside Tchelitchew and Balthus and Francis Rose near Picabia and Picasso in the last room of this exhibition with Cézanne, Matisse .

    And you have an interesting article in Appollo London Revew about him .And also in Artes Magazine from San Francisco where the exhibition was before .

    But the main document as a revelation is with the mention beside the picture with the Preface Gertrude Stein wrote for first Riba-Rovira’s exhibition in the Galerie Roquepine in Paris on 1945 .
    Where we can read Gertrude Stein writing Riba-Rovira “will go farther than Cezanne…will succeed in where Picasso failed…I am fascinated ” by Riba-Rovira Gertrude Stein tells us .

    And you are you also fascinated indeed as Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira ?

    Me I am when I see « L’Arlequin » on the free access website of « Galeria Muro ».

    But Gertrude Stein spoke also in this same document about Matisse and  Juan Gris .
    Riba-Rovira went each week in Gertrude Stein’s saloon rue Christine with Masson ,Hemingway and others. By Edward Burns and Carl Van Vechten we can know Riba-Rovira did others portraits of Gertrude Stein .

    But we do not know where they are ;and you do you know perhaps ?

    With this wonderful portrait we do not forget it is the last time Gertrude Stein sat for an artist who is Riba-Rovira .
    This exhibition presents us a world success with this last painting portrait before she died .And her last Gertrude Stein’s Art Retrospective before dead .

    It illuminates the tone as an esthetic light over that exhibition now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York thanks to Curator Rebecca Rabinow .

    Coming from San Francisco “Seeing five stories” in the Jewish museum to Washington in National Portrait Gallery .And now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York for our pleasure .

    And the must is to see for the first time in the same place portraits by Picasso, Picabia, Riba-Rovira, Rose ,Tall-Coat, Valloton .Never before it was .

    You have the translate of Gertrude Stein’s Riba-Rovira Preface on english Gertrude Stein’s page on Wikipedia and in the catalog of this Roquepine exhibition you can see in first place the mention of this portrait .And also other pictures Gertrude Stein bought to Riba-Rovira .
    There is another place where you can see now Riba-Rovira’s works in an exhibition in Valencia in Spain “Homenage a Gertrude Stein” by Riba-Rovira in Galleria Muro ,if you like art …

    But we do not missed today that all over Europe a very bad wind is blowing again bringing the worth in front of us .And we must know that at least were two antinazis and antifascists in this exhibition but the only one fighting weapons in hands would be Riba-Rovira who did one of the first three « affiches » supporting Republicans in the beguining Spanish civil war .

    Seeing Potrait of Gertrude Stein by Riba-Rovira in the Metropolitain Museum of New York with Picasso ,Cézanne ,Matisse we feel a recreation of spirit .

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