Hannah Gadsby exhibition “It’s Pablo-matic” riles critics

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Hannah Gadsby made international waves with their unique Netflix stand-up/storytelling hybrid Nanette back in 2018, digging into their history as a comedian, their studies of art history, and the rampant walls of patriarchal hate and violence that surrounded them. Hot on the heels of their most recent special, Something Special, Gadsby has partnered with the Brooklyn Museum to present It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby, an exhibition following the thread they’ve pulled throughout their career on bringing to public light the icon’s misogynistic fervour.


Gadsby rocketed to international acclaim with their uncompromising and sincere voice, telling of their experience as an artist, art historian, and human within cishet male-dominated spaces in Nanette. They followed this success up with another special, Douglas, as well as a TED Talk, both further expanding on prior thematic concepts and diving into their adulthood diagnosis of autism.


In Gadsby’s ongoing discussions of chauvinistic paradigms within the art world and its history, Pablo Picasso crops up as a recurrent figure of ire. An entirely fair target, given the now much more widespread awareness of the cubist’s disdain for women. Through It’s Pablo-matic, Gadsby and the Brooklyn Museum aim to bring together Picasso’s works alongside female artists across the 20th and 21st centuries to examine “the artist’s complicated legacy through a critical, contemporary, and feminist lens, even as it acknowledges his work’s transformative power and lasting influence.”


The exhibition, which opened June 2nd and runs till September 24th, hosts this myriad of works—which includes Cecily Brown, Renee Cox, Käthe Kollwitz, and Dindga McCannon, among others—alongside a guided audio tour by Gadsby that lampoons Picasso (or as they seem fond to call him, “PP”) and aims to give the insight of this shifting perspective on the figure’s legacy.


Already, the exhibition seems to have become divisive amongst critics. Some, including ARTnews, believe the endeavour to have missed its own point through a lack of representative works from women that emerged alongside Picasso, instead largely still maintaining the focus on his own work, while an NYT critic seemed more irate. But the Brooklyn Museum has held its stance on the importance of It’s Pablo-matic, with museum director Anne Pasternak writing to Art Newspaper: “To those who question whether Gadsby’s voice belongs in this exhibit, I would simply ask: Whose interests are threatened by including it? Or, who benefits from excluding it?”