Pablo Picasso at his French home. Juan Gyenes
Malaga celebrates Picasso Year

Malaga celebrates Picasso Year

The birth house and the museum dedicated to the Malaga-born artist are hosting exhibitions and other events in the city to mark the 50th anniversary of his death

Francisco Griñán


Wednesday, 19 July 2023, 16:33


Thousands of wreaths and bouquets arrived, but the gate of Chateau Vauvenargues in France was only opened once, to receive a cross of roses whose ribbon bore a message: From Malaga, to Pablo Picasso. This was the last gift the painter was to receive from his birth city, flowers for his grave in the chateau grounds. Paradoxically, the death in April 1973 of the Malaga-born artist, marked the beginning of a return to his roots.

Guernica, one of the artist’s most famous works, symbolised Picasso’s return to Spain. In 1981 the large-scale painting was brought from New York to the Prado Museum in Madrid was the first step. Then the Casa Natal, the house in Malaga’s Plaza de la Merced where Picasso was born, opened as a museum, also sowing the seed for the now world-famous Malaga Picasso Museum (MPM), which receives more visitors than any other. Picasso had returned to his birth city, paving the way for Malaga, previously only known as a tourist destination, to become a capital of culture in its own right.

Now, both the birth house and the MPM are playing a vital role in this year’s international event marking 50 years since Picasso’s death. It is called Picasso Celebration 1973-2023 and it has achieved something unprecedented in the art world by bringing together the governments of Spain and France to organise 50 exhibitions in Europe and the USA.

Three of them are being held in Malaga, bringing the celebration of one of the most important artists of the 20th century back to his birthplace. This year’s events also coincide with other important Picasso-related anniversaries in the city.

“2023 is an important year for us because as well as commemorating 50 years since the artist’s death, we are celebrating 20 years of the Picasso Museum in Malaga and marking the major contribution it has made to the cultural transformation of the city,” said José Lebrero, artistic director of the MPM.

His 2023 calendar has two of the major events in this Picasso Year marked in red: one is the current exhibition that highlights the artist’s love of sculpture and the other will explore his influence on art. Both of these are at the MPM but there is a third as well, about Picasso’s early life in the Casa Natal, which also has an extra reason to celebrate next year as it will be marking 35 years since its creation.

“It will be its most ambitious exhibition so far,” the director of the agency which manages the city’s museums, José María Luna, told SUR, and his office is already working on parallel activities.

“We asked the whole cultural sector to ‘think Picasso’ for 2023,” he explained.

“Pablo could never have imagined that 50 years after his death he would have become the Malaga brand,” said Lebrero. “We are in the city where he was born, a city which attracts people from all over the world and we are in the privileged position of being able to make him and his work even better known. And that is something we will do the same way the master did: through art.”

Picasso Celebration 1973-2023 was officially opened in October last year with the exhibition by Bernardí Roig El Último Rostro y la Afonía del Minotauro (The Last Face and the Aphonia of the Minotaur), which was a collection created by Picasso based on the self-portrait he painted of himself shortly before his death. Also on the theme of minotaurs, a labryinth was installed at the Centre Pompidou, which invites visitors to get lost searching for this mythological animal that has marked the work of Pablo Picasso. Both of these initial projects ended in May.

Picasso Sculptor. Matter and Body

The first of the three major exhibitions is currently open at the MPM and features the biggest collection ever in Spain of sculptures by Picasso. The opening on 8 May, coincided with the 20th anniversary of the museum. The exhibition has been curated by Carmen Giménez, one of the people involved in opening the museum back in 2003. José Lebero said, “We are lucky to have her as the curator of this exhibition, which has also been carried out in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. After Malaga, the works will be on display there.”

Under the name Picasso Sculptor. Matter and Body, the exhibition features works that for a long time were never seen, because the artists kept the pieces for himself and rarely sold any. However, “his work revolutionised the concept of sculpture”, said Lebrero.

The exhibition explores shapes of the body through diverse materials including wood, bronze, iron, cement, steel and plaster. It was an experimentation that he embraced most evidently during his Cubist period, but was actually something he enjoyed all his life.

Museo Picasso Málaga

Open: Until 10 September 2023

Curator: Carmen Giménez

The first exhibition in Spain exclusively devoted to Picasso’s sculptures is currently open in the MPM. Picasso himself considered sculpture to be an important part of his work, and was dedicated to it throughout his entire life.

The Ages of Pablo

The second major exhibition has opened recently at the Casa Natal birth house museum. The Ages of Pablo is a chronological journey through works that shaped the artist’s life. Going from works of his youth such as Montañas de Málaga (Mountains of Malaga), to insights into his final days which he spent in the company of Jacqueline Roque. With this exhibition, the Casa Natal is hoping to establish itself in the cultural scene.

José María Luna said, “We are collaborating with other museums who are loaning us some of their works, it is our most ambitious exhibition to date, both in terms of the number of works and number of contributors.” The aim is not to compete with the big museums and their “massive budgets”, but to show Picasso’s influence as a contribution to this international event, something the Picasso museum and foundation have been doing for 35 years.

The Museo Picasso in Barcelona, the Mapfre Foundation and the Palau foundation are just some of the contributors. The exhibition, which shows Picasso’s never-ending relevance, has been curated by Mario Virgilio Montañez. It can be visited until October.

Museo Casa Natal Picasso

Open: Until 1October 2023

Curator: Mario Virgilio Montañez

With works from the municipal Picasso collection and other public and private institutions in Spain, the exhibition is a chronological journey through Picasso’s work, through eras that shaped his life from his youthful years to his death.

The Echo of Picasso

As the aforementioned exhibition comes to an end, the second one at the MPM will begin, on 1 October. Organised by the French curator and historian Eric Troncy, the Echo of Picasso shows the painter’s influence on art after the Second World War, in masters like Antonio Saura and also in younger generations.

José Lebrero describes the process of putting together the exhibition: “There were many discussions between the museum team and patrons Almine and Bernard Ruiz Picasso about what the title should be. We came to the conclusion that the term ‘Echo’ was the most appropriate. Because it is less about showing Picasso himself, but rather to show that the Malaga artist’s approach can still be seen in later generations.

“The exhibition will show how his work was echoed in very different forms and by artists of very different sensibilities,” said Lebrero, who also remarked that beyond the break with Cubism, Picasso’s main contribution to contemporary art was his freedom.

Museo Picasso Málaga

Open: 1 October 2023 until 24 March 2024

Curator: Eric Troncy

Pablo Picasso had an enormous influence on 20th-century art and produced works in a variety of styles. The Echo of Picasso is based on the charisma of his artistic work, his influence in contemporary art and his continued global relevance.

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