The location isn’t important, but the fact that it happened in San Francisco deepens the irony. This happened at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in the Gertrude Stein Exhibit.
Drawing upon a wealth of rarely seen artistic and archival materials, Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories illuminates Stein’s life and pivotal role in art during the 20th century. Focusing on Stein’s life from the end of World War I through World War II, the exhibition explores her evolving public personae, lifestyle, relationships, landmark 1934-35 tour of the United States, and life in France during WWII.
Through a portrayal of Stein’s contributions in her writings, patronage, and lifestyle, the exhibition provides an intimate look at Stein’s complex relationship to her identity, culture, and history. Seeing Gertrude Stein also explores the ways in which Stein’s life and writings have impressed themselves upon the American artistic imagination and inspired generations of writers, artists, musicians, and performers.
For those who aren’t familiar with her, Stein was an American who lived in Paris and between the World Wars, her home was the centre of a group of writers and artists that included Henri Matisse, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, William Carlos Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway. I have always considered that the sparseness of her prose was a major influence on Hemingway’s style.
The other reason Stein was famous was for her openness about her 30 year relationship with Alice B. Toklas. This leads into our tale of irony. According to SFGate, a lesbian couple was asked to leave the museum for holding hands at this exhibit. It’s difficult to imagine anything less disturbing to art patrons than a couple holding hands, but to eject a lesbian couple from an exhibit featuring one of the pre-eminent lesbian icons of the 20th century is the very definition of irony.
The museum has asked that the guard be reprimanded. Perhaps he should also be educated.