One of Pistoletto's mirror pieces at CAC Málaga. / FRANCIS SILVA

Narcissus Rex

Reflecting upon Picasso's monumental ego and arte povera star Pistoletto's XXL mirrors. Has selfie culture turned the tables?


Every day is Picasso Day in "Málaga, ciudad genial", even more so during 'El Octubre Picassiano'. On 25 October of this year, the archetypal genius of 20th century art would have reached the august age of 140, CXL in Roman numerals.

'The Big Day' fell on a Monday, the day after free-entry Sunday. However, this did not deter the Casa Natal, his birthplace museum, from giving the thumbs up to open-house celebrations. Since the previous week, its façade had been adorned with bright-hued doves heralding a flurry of anniversary events, including a string of conferences exploring standard Picassian topics such as Women and Eroticism. Eros (god of love, symbol of unbridled hedonism...) or Thanatos (Freudian personification of our darkest instincts)? Ethos or pathos? Get wise on 10 November.

Museo Picasso Málaga celebrates its eighteenth with Brassaï's Paris, a spectacular tribute to the Hungarian photographer/sculptor/filmmaker/writer behind the bestseller Conversations with Picasso: "Read this book if you want to understand me." – dixit Pablo.

Mirror, mirror...

Google, Google... on the screen, tell us... Was Pablo Ruiz Picasso's legendary narcissism the key to his success? Perhaps. According to a widely reported study published by Dr Yi Zhou, a professor at Florida State University, bankable artists have bigger egos. Indeed, it seems to be all about size. The size of their signatures. The scale of their works.

Further probing revealed that this trend is less apparent in Contemporary Art than it was in Modern Art - "opening new avenues of research", according to the author of the paper. Could it be, I wonder, that criteria like "number of self-portraits" and "use of the first person in interviews" have lost their novelty value in a world in which everybody blows their own trumpet; in an era marked by selfies and self-storytelling?

Could today's top-ranking mainstreamers be cashing in on the artist-2-viewer / viewer-2-image factor, instead of basking in the torso-flaunting self-worship that turned Pablo Picasso into a pioneer of self-branding? And, if so, is this a game changer?

Penetrating reflections

Arte povera trailblazer Michelangelo Pistoletto is on target. He ticks Yi Zhou's "large scale artworks" box, but - and this is a huge but - his XXL mirror installations made of polished steel - many incorporating captivating silkscreen images - say more about us than they say about him.

The place to be now, if into contemporary art, is where he's at (Malaga's Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, until 5 December). Prepare to be dazed. Penetrating into your own reflection can throw you.

Selfie effect

Every day can't be Selfie Saturday. That would drive us crazy. Yet selfie culture is everywhere. Tourists take pictures of themselves "with Picasso" - or rather his sculpture on the Plaza de la Merced. There's a Selfie Room at the Russian Museum, and a "self-photo call" on the way out of the Brassaï show. Too much of a good thing?