Susan Stamberg

A dream of a day at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. We'd come out of a huge David Hockney exhibition, and my family and I were pooped. So granddaughters, their mother Myndy and I sat on a rim of the Stravinsky Fountain to rest a bit, while my son Josh took our picture.

The fountain makes me smile four years later, as it did the first time I saw it decades ago. It's a 1983 collaboration between sculptors Jean Tinguely (he did the black mechanical parts) and Niki de Saint Phalle (the puffy colorful figures — something/someone in a crown, serpent, heart, lips).

Powerful, no? And gorgeous. Helen Frankenthaler did it in 1973 — 20 years after making a painting that took Jackson Pollock's abstract expressionism a step further. In 1950 she was wowed by the ropes and squiggles of paint Pollock was wrestling onto unstretched canvas on the floor of his barn.

What more is there to say about Frida Kahlo?

She died in 1954 at age 47. By now she's a cottage industry. Her face (that unibrow, the red lips, the scores of self portraits) reproduced on mugs, matchbooks, pandemic masks, of course tote bags.

Fans can recite her story: The terrible accident when she was 18 — a bus/tram collision in Mexico City smashing her body, and creating a lifetime of surgeries and pain.

She was 22. One of three women in a class of 24. Her professor at the Philadelphia College of Art told her she was "taking up a good man's space" in his class. All she'd do when school was over was get pregnant and raise her child. "Meanwhile," said the professor, "a good man could have been in that space."

One hundred years ago, America's first museum of modern art opened in a private mansion in Washington, D.C. Founder Duncan Phillips was an early collector of Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh. The Phillips was the first to buy a Georgia O'Keeffe. Decades ago, in this city of museums, it became my favorite one.

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