Nelson Rockefeller's Picasso Tapestries exhibit. Photo by Page Graham.
Nelson Rockefeller's Picasso Tapestries exhibit. Photo by Page Graham.

I can remember almost every great art exhibition I’ve attended that featured seldom-seen works, as well as the times when procrastination caused me to miss viewing art I might never get another opportunity to see.

It’s one thing to catch a traveling exhibition or visit a distant museum. It’s another thing to see art that seldom leaves home, or that goes years or even decades without being placed on public view. Such is the case with the San Antonio Museum of Art’s current exhibition, “Picasso: Nelson Rockefeller’s Picasso Tapestries Commissioned for Kykuit.”

The 18 tapestries of some of Picasso’s most renowned paintings were commissioned by Rockefeller between 1955 and 1975 and normally hang at Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in the Hudson Valley north of New York City. This is not a traveling exhibition. It’s here until March 8, and then the massive tapestries, which are in exquisite condition and display startlingly fresh color, disappear again. How many of us have plans to visit the Rockefeller estate in the next few years?

Nelson Rockefeller's Picasso Tapestries exhibit. Photo by Page Graham.
Nelson Rockefeller’s Picasso Tapestries exhibit. Photo by Page Graham.

So make it Date Night Picasso next Friday, Jan. 23 from 6-10 p.m., when admission for non-member couples will be $30 instead of $40 (the evening is free to members, with annual memberships starting at $45), or $15 a person if you’re on a tight entertainment budget. Basically, two get into the special exhibition for the price of one once both people have paid the general admission charge.

The evening will include several bonuses. Docents will be offering free guided tours of the Picasso tapestries, and there will be a special Flamenco performance by Randy Cordero and Suspiro Flamenco from 7-8 p.m.

A cash bar and food truck will be available, and for infrequent visitors to SAMA, you can walk from the museum’s parking lot to Andrew Weissman’s Luxury or across the street to Rosella Coffee in less than five minutes.

“Date night should be more than just dinner out or a movie and dinner, which we all do but it gets boring,” said SAMA’s Kelso Director Katie Luber. “Dates should be fun, and about doing something different and maybe learning something. That’s why we started Date Night, to give people a fresh choice.”

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The evening will be the perfect time to view the Diego Rivera Cubist masterpiece, Dos Mujeres, on loan from the Arkansas Art Center, also until March 8. The painting complements the Picasso exhibit, and its appearance here represents one more connection between SAMA and the Rockefeller family. The 1914 work was a gift to the Little Rock museum by Abby Rockefeller Mauzé, Nelson’s sister.

Finally, don’t miss SAMA’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, one of the country’s most comprehensive collections. It includes thousands of pieces from Rockefeller’s personal collection of Latin American folk art.

For present generations, it’s hard to exaggerate Nelson Rockefeller’s importance as a national political and cultural figure and philanthropist. He was a major actor in 20th century politics, serving four terms as New York governor, as Vice President under President Gerald Ford following the resignation of Pres. Richard Nixon, and he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for President. He was the grandson of Standard Oil baron John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a force in business himself, developing the Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, a 14-building complex covering 22 acres. He was a serious art collector and patron, and played a leading role in the design and building of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

After his death in 1979, his daughter, Ann Rockefeller Roberts, donated most of her father’s Latin American folk art collection to SAMA, and in 1998, the wing was named after him.

*Featured/top image: Nelson Rockefeller’s Picasso Tapestries exhibit. Photo by Page Graham.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the price of entry for two people. The correct amount is $30, not $25. SAMA is offering two guests entry into the special Picasso exhibition for the price of one on Date Night after both pay general admission.

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SAMA Announces New Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.