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"My father never imagined there would be a museum bearing his name in Malaga, but he would be very proud"

Paloma Ruiz Picasso realised "all of a sudden" that she was half Andalusian on her first visit to Spain.
Paloma Ruiz Picasso realised "all of a sudden" that she was half Andalusian on her first visit to Spain. / ÑITO SALAS
  • The artist's daughter is visiting Malaga for the 15th anniversary of the Museo Picasso Málaga and is "fascinated" by the changes she has seen

  • Paloma Ruiz-Picasso. Daughter of Pablo Picasso

Anne Paloma Ruiz-Picasso Gilot, (born 19 April 1949 in Vallauris, France) has been designing jewellery for much of her life; she began with Yves Saint Laurent, although now she does so exclusively for Tiffany & Co. It is this artistic side which also led her to play the role of a condemned woman in a film, although that was her only venture into the world of cinema. However, this pleasant and apparently extrovert woman will always be best-known as the daughter of Malaga artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso.

Coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Museo Picasso Málaga, Paloma and her husband (who works with her on everything relating to the artist) have just spent a few days in the city. They met us in a beautiful, spacious room in the Gran Hotel Miramar; a setting which perfectly suits the understated elegance of a woman who wears the jewellery she has designed herself. Although she rarely gives interviews, she spoke openly about her father, sometimes wavering between seeing him as the paternal figure and the greatest artist of the 20th century. She is amazed at the changes in Malaga city since she was last here, and refers several times to the "fantastic" work that Bernard Picasso is doing with the museum. Nor does she mind talking about politics, everyday life with her father and what her life has been like, bearing such a famous surname. However, the moment when she became most nostalgic and sounded happiest, without a doubt, was when she said that Picasso's Paloma de la Paz is the loveliest gift anyone has ever given her.

It's now 15 years since the Picasso Museum opened in Malaga. It was a turning point for the city and opened the way to it becoming one of the most important in Spain in terms of art. How does that make you feel?

I think it was a wonderful idea. One can really see all the benefits for the city now. I suppose even more so in the future, but what I have seen so far is fascinating. We arrived last night and the first thing I thought was how lovely Malaga is looking. It radiates energy.

Is it long since you were last here?

Yes. I don't really remember when it was, but I'm sure it was before the airport was modernised. It must be about ten years ago.

Do you think your father ever imagined that there would be a museum bearing his name in Malaga?

I don't think so, no, but he would be very proud. Not just of that, but also seeing how the country has changed and how Malaga, from being a distant provincial city has become a world-famous centre for art.

Did he talk to you about Malaga? What image did you have of the city in which he was born?

To be honest Spain for me was like a dream. I knew it was very important to him... Look, he always talked to me in French, with a very strong accent, but always in French. The only times he spoke Spanish were when we were with people who didn't speak a word of French: when we went to the bullfights, with the bullfighters, then he would speak Spanish. But he did used to talk about flamenco, which is when I began to relate to what Andalucía signified. I was 25 when I came here for the first time, for a photo session in Carmona for the French Vogue magazine. I was with a group of photographers and make-up artists, and I was the only one who could speak Spanish. People would ask me what we were doing in the street in Carmona at six o'clock in the morning, because we took the photos early to avoid the heat. For me, it came as a shock because I realised then that I was half Andalusian. Not Spanish, Andalusian; and I recognised things in me that came from my father. He was very Andalusian in the way he treated people, very open, very easygoing. Sometimes people would see him in the street, and being Picasso, they would all feel very nervous, but he was very good at communicating.

Do you have a sense that Picasso, in a way, felt partly French?

No. He used to say France was where he lived and where he wanted to live, but he didn't say he felt French.

You also have an artistic side, especially in jewellery design. However, some years ago you played Countess Erzsebet Báthory in the erotic film 'Cuentos inmorales', with Polish director Walerian Borowczyk; you received praise from the critics for that. Will you make any more films?

I doubt it. I felt very shy about doing that. And you will understand that with a surname like mine, and being shy as well... But in the end I decided I didn't like being so timid. They suggested that I did the film because I used to talk a great deal about the book and the character in particular, so when the producer asked me he knew I couldn't say no. I thought at the time, it will either kill me or make me less timid.

So it was quite hard for you to play that role?

Yes, but the reason I did it was because I knew she was an almost silent person; there was very little dialogue. And because it bore no relationship to my own life.

I understand that your interest in art came from your father.

Yes. Because I was very calm and very quiet, I was able to sit beside him for hours while he painted. If he told me not to talk, I wouldn't; and he used to give me paper and pencils to draw alongside him.

Who were you sitting with when he painted, your father or Picasso?

With my father, although at the same time I could never forget who he was. When we went out, people in the street would come and ask him for autographs. He was like a superstar. But for me that was the secondary aspect.

Of course, when you were born he was already world famous.

Exactly. When I look at his works, I have always thought of them as being by Picasso, not by my father. It's a type of respect for his art, which is more important than the fact that he was my father. But of course, I also had another way of seeing him.

I understand that you identify especially with the Paloma de la Paz.

I always say that is the loveliest gift anyone has ever given me, and I should also say that I am a placid person, so the name suits. At that time it was very unusual, although it is more popular now. But when I was born, nobody was called Paloma.

Do you identify especially with any other works?

There are many. His work was so great, so varied. One tends to talk about my father as the greatest painter of the 20th century, but he was also the greatest sculptor and the greatest ceramic artist, and the same with the prints. Overall he has done more than anyone else, but it isn't just that: he discovered things that nobody else had, ever. And then there are the things that he returned to years later, which shows that in his mind he hadn't finished something.

Although he was your father, you must have had to study his career as well.

Yes, of course, and it has been a pleasure. There are so many exhibitions in the world of Picasso; I don't go to all of them, but when there is something particularly interesting we'll visit the same one in different places. That way, you discover things you hadn't noticed before.

Although everyone has their own opinion about it, there is no doubt that Guernica is one of his most important works. With that in mind, and thinking about the present day, I wanted to ask you what you think your father's opinion would be about the fact that 40 years after Franco's death they are going to withdraw his honours.

I believe that in life one has to move calmly. He may have been revolutionary in his art, but I think he would have believed that with history you have to take your time. Things shouldn't be done when a wound is still wide open. It's better to deal with the problem now than it would have been 40 years ago.

I imagine he was always aware of the importance of that painting.

When the Republic asked him to do something for the Spanish pavilion he couldn't think what to do, and suddenly he realised that this picture would truly be a Hymn For Peace. It's fascinating for a man to be able to fight, not with weapons but with art.

What do you hope Malaga will be like in another 15 years, when we repeat this interview?

I think it is on the right path, it just has to continue in the same way. The city is lovely in itself, and I believe that if it continues to focus on art it will always do well.

What temporary exhibition would you like to see at the Picasso Musum in Malaga?

I would do one about the painted sculptures. There is something about the third dimension and painting that deserves to be studied further.