Classicism stands out in The Three Graces, a painting by Picasso dated 1923. Ñito Salas
Museo Picasso revamps its exhibition spaces to show new works by the artist
Art and culture

Museo Picasso revamps its exhibition spaces to show new works by the artist

The art gallery launches a collection including 10 never-seen-before works of art in Spain, taking a more unified look at the Malaga artist's work

Francisco Griñán


Friday, 22 March 2024, 16:39


By now, with more than 45 million internet mentions, finding something new to say about Pablo Picasso and his work seems like mission impossible or just being a show-off. Still, art is far from being a closed shop and its very essence is synonymous with taking a fresh look at someone's work. This is what Malaga's Picasso Museum (MPM) now proposes: as it turns 20, the museum is launching a new collection made up of 144 pieces, of which ten have never been on display before.

What is more, the real novelty on this occasion is the very different theme to this exhibition. Rather than follow the usual story of classifying the painter's works by period (blue, pink...) or art movement (cubism, classicism...), by timeline or by his relationship with his wives and lovers, MPM has opted for a complete revamp of the 12 rooms of the Palacio de Buenavista to present Picasso in a different light.

This time Picasso is a singular artist, the whole creative package marked by innovation, who, far from surrendering to successive styles, has always travelled interwoven, artistic paths back and forth throughout his life.

Paul (son of the artist), one of the never-displayed-before works of art now on show at Malaga’s Picasso Museum.
Paul (son of the artist), one of the never-displayed-before works of art now on show at Malaga’s Picasso Museum. Ñito Salas

"Our goal has been to create a sense of unity concerning Picasso. Normally, his work is divided into different periods, but we decided not to do that, to do the opposite, as what he created cannot be easily segmented into phases; it was more complex because his creating process came and went and moved from one style to another," explained Michael Fitzgerald, professor of Art History at Trinity College in Hartford (Connecticut, USA) and curator of the semi-permanent exhibition.

Pablo Picasso: Structures of Invention, will remain at the MPM for the next three years. Most of the 152 pieces are on loan from the Almine & Bernard Ruiz-Picasso Foundation, to which have been added another fifty works from the art gallery's own collections. Of these, 144 works are currently on show, but these will rotate as some of them, such as those on paper, cannot be exhibited for more than six months at a time for conservation reasons.

Oil paintings, sculptures and engravings are not lacking in this revamped collection which, as pointed out by the curator, places special emphasis on ceramics. Fitzgerald further stresses the point that all the works exhibited in the Picasso Museum come from the Malaga-born artist's private collection, kept over his lifetime, "so he had them on display in his studios and homes, and he would return to them as time passed." This reinforces the central idea of this exhibition that speaks of the continuity and unity in Picasso's work in the face of the rather fragmented visions of his output.

From beginning to end

The Pablo Picasso: Structures of Invention exhibition has works dating from 1895 to 1972. The montage begins and ends with pieces from those years, namely the emblematic and academic Lola with a Doll - a portrait of the artist's sister - and the cubist Boy with a Shovel respectively. These highlight the train of thought behind these many subjects, including the artist's return to childhood as a theme in his later years.

Between these two paintings the exhibition moves on, tracing a path that moves back and forth through different periods and formats. As an example, his sketches for The Young Ladies of Avignon already hint at his future break with cubism, later returning to classicism with Portrait of Olga (1923), which is on display with a sketch that shows the engagement ring on his first wife's hand.

The exhibition allows us to see the dimensions and shapes repeated at different times of his life, the unfinished pieces and his anti-war work, such as the emblematic sculpture Head with Helmet (1933), in which there seems to be a Greek soldier, but "with exaggerated features that make him look more like a clown than a warrior," notes Fitzgerald in our tour of the collection.

With portraiture of women being a strong theme for Picasso, Room 4 focuses on this, presided over by the monumental work The Three Graces (1925), where the figures are somewhat devoid of sensuality.

"We propose a different point of view, not of women as objects, but as artists or warriors, as powerful women," says the curator, throwing this point of view into the artistic debate about misogyny in Picasso's work.

This new artistic approach to how we view Picasso's work also includes a dozen exhibits (three oil paintings and as many drawings, two notebooks, a sculpture and one piece of ceramic) on show in Spain for the first time. In this group of unpublished works, a few stand out. Firstly, the oil paintings Paul (son of the artist' (1922), a portrait of Pablo Picasso's first-born son that occupies a central space in Room 5, and Head of a Woman (1928), which shows the influence of surrealism on emotion and the dark depths of the psyche. Also, the sculpture Layered Woman (1933) that explores what was possible by experimenting with plaster as a support tool. The final room, Room 12, features ceramics, particularly those with bullfighting themes, highlighting the evolution of the artist's techniques and how these relate to other, well-known pieces by Picasso featuring bulls and bullfighters.

A "dream" of an exhibition

The recently appointed director of the MPM, Miguel López-Remiro, who took up office in January, has hailed Fitzgerald's work and the new concept for a semi-permanent exhibition as an "excellent and exceptional reading of the work" of this Malaga artist. Bernard Picasso is confident that this rethinking is due to some of the new ways that we view art in the 21st century and that it represents "a dream" come true by presenting his grandfather's work "with the desire to unify" his lifelong career.

The launch event of this semi-permanent exhibition also included a presentation by the new Secretary General for Culture in Andalucía's regional government, José Ángel Vélez, who anticipates that this year's visitor figures to the MPM will be even better than last year's, when a record-breaking 700,000 people came to the gallery. All expect that total to be surpassed with this renewed collection in a museum that, in its two decades of existence, has become a hallmark of the cultural identity of Andalucía.

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