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Picasso comes to East Lansing

Saper Galleries showing rare exhibit free of charge

May 26, 2006

Roy Saper is offering you one of the most unique experiences of a lifetime. All you have to do is walk in.

The exhibit needs no tag line, fancy catch phrase or selling point. Right now, if you walk in the front door of Saper Galleries, 433 Albert Ave., you will obtain the privilege of standing in the same room with more than 60 original Picassos.

"Why Picasso?" said Roy Saper, the owner of Saper Galleries. "Because I like to do that which has never been done."

"Pablo Picasso is one of the most important artists, period," Saper said. "Why not have an exhibition which highlights that and make it available to visitors in the East Lansing area for free."

The collection in Saper Galleries was obtained directly from two overseas sources, including a European lithographer and from Picasso's own grandchildren. The art on display here is equivalent to what you would find in the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the famous Biblioth?que Nationale de France in Paris.

"This exhibition truly is a world-class affair," Saper said. "The works of art on display right here in downtown East Lansing are literally the same works of art or from the same edition that you would find in a major museum in which you would have to travel and pay for to find otherwise. It's totally free and just down the street."

Much of the exhibit prominently features a quarter of Picasso's "Suite Vollard," a collection of etchings crafted between 1933 and 1937. The suite, which was commissioned by French art dealer Ambroise Vollard, consists of 100 different images, which both chronicle the various stages in Picasso's development and display the personal affairs of his love life.

"The suite is so beautiful because they're actively depicting Picasso himself," Saper said.

The pieces vary dramatically in affordability, ranging anywhere from $500 for the smaller works to upward of $75,000 for the famed artist's most grandiose endeavors, said Assistant Director Salina Kalnins.

"I think Roy is giving an opportunity for people to see artwork that they normally couldn't see unless they traveled to a big city," she said.

But Saper isn't interested in merely displaying and selling the artwork — he wants people to learn from it too.

"The neat thing about this exhibit is it's more than just artwork on a wall," Saper said. "My feeling is that an exhibition should not be just selecting works of art from a famous artist and putting them up; that would be, in my mind, a failure. What a success is, is when we take the artwork and compliment it with documents that actually explain the art.

"This is not an exhibit where you stand in the middle of a room and say 'Well, I've just seen 60 Picassos,'" he said. "Throughout the exhibition I want you to say or mumble in your head: 'I didn't know that.'"

Each Picasso, whether it be an etching, lithograph, linocut or ceramic is carefully placed in the exhibit. All the pieces are lavishly documented and detailed with in-depth background information, history and circumstantial knowledge. Moving through the gallery quickly becomes the equivalent of actively watching a pictorial documentary.

"Everyone, usually even the younger kids, knows the name, they know who Picasso is," Kalnins said. "But, to get to see it in person ? they'll remember it. Probably forever."

Saper's passion for exposing the community to artwork of this magnitude is overflowing. The gallery owner expressed a deep need to give a sense of realization to students and professors on campus and throughout the region. Already, the exhibit has attracted visitors from all over the world.

"I don't have to do these shows. Nobody pays me to do them," Saper said. "These are exhibitions that I create on whim, but might take years of my life to bring about. We have a responsibility to stimulate an educated community."

Saper said he hopes everyone will take some time to visit the gallery.

"For an investment of five minutes to five days, you're gonna get Picasso 101," he said. "All without having to pay a single dollar for a single credit hour. That's pretty cool."

Saper Galleries presents "Picasso: Original Graphics and Ceramics" free of charge until July 2. And if you have a rich uncle, all of the original Picassos are available to purchase for hanging in your dorm room. Be sure to handle with care.

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