Surely, he who is not aware that the famous Musée Picasso in the Marais area of Paris reopens, after five years of renovation must have been hibernating for six months! Orchestrated by Anne Baldassari, the former director of the Museum, the revamped venue is a success. Backed by Claude Picasso, son of the great master, the exhibition curator is proposing an original and sensual journey through the oeuvre of the man who inspired so many contemporary artists.
The 34 rooms of the Hôtel Salé – a beautiful 17th century mansion built by Pierre Aubert, a protégé of Fouquet who collected the tax on salt – procure the majestic backdrop for the 5,000 paintings on display. Placed in resonance with works by Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, and Modigliani from Picasso’s personal collection, the Spanish Master’s paintings are discovered in a non-rational way. We confess to have been initially taken aback by a set-up that is following neither a chronology nor the well-known periods in Picasso’s oeuvre. However, once our logic had admitted its disappointment, and we allowed our senses to lead us, that’s when the adventure began.
(Re)discover La Mort de Casagemas, painted in 1906, in a halo from which emanates all the despair of that friend who committed suicide after an unhappy love affair: the Parisian beginnings of the Blue Period. Spend an infinite amount of time looking at the sublime Self Portrait, illustrating the blues, the melancholy of the young man who had just arrived in Paris in 1901. And then compare it to that other stylized portrait, like a primitive mask, raw and cold. Finally, collect your thoughts within analytic cubism for L’homme à la guitare (man with guitar) or the Nature morte à la chaise cannée (still life with wicker chair). Witness the making of the Demoiselles d’Avignon, and, suddenly, a new interpretation of the old masters through the very touching portrait of his son in the painting Paul en Arlequin. Feel the freedom of monumental women/she-wolves in La Course. Refrain from stroking the plaster of Métamorphoses, a sensual tribute with a touch of Primitive Art. There is so much talent in Picasso, so much production (“Give me a museum, I will fill it”, he said!), so much tireless aesthetic research (“I do not seek, I find!”), that it is impossible to ignore his work. His political acts such as Guernica, his private life worthy of a Russian novel, his powerful understanding of his era, his genius in reframing art within history while constantly reinventing it, all this makes him the greatest artist of the 20th century.
Revered in his lifetime, he attracted the most famous photographers, from Man Ray to Brassaï, leaving nothing to chance when it came to his image. Picasso is a demiurge, spoiled child, one of those who turn their contradictions into motivation, revolution, immortality. He is the man who dusted himself off after all the successive flatteries and dislikes, opening the door to a mind-blowing eroticism in his later years, keeping his innocence, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”