BEIJING – “I became a painter and wound up as Picasso,” the 20th-century genius famously said, a quote that has served as a springboard for a retrospective of the Spanish artist at a Beijing gallery, organizers told EFE on Saturday.
“Picasso-Birth of a Genius,” brings together 103 artworks (34 canvasses, 14 sculptures, 55 works on paper) at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) to explore the first three decades of the Picasso’s (1881-1973) practice, considered essential in order to truly understand the foundations of his work.
“This exhibition was conceived for UCCA and Chinese visitors who didn’t see Picasso before. We took that into account and focus on his first three decades of work to explain where his genius comes from and to understand why he is a genius you need to know what he did before,” Emilia Philippot, curator of the exhibition, told EFE.
Highlights include “Self-portrait with Palette” (1906) from his primitivist period, the wide-open eyes already hint at an element that would become a recurrent theme of his cubist period, a style that for Philippot is one of the first symbols of modernity.
The show takes visitors on a journey of the artist’s styles and evolution through five spaces which include his early period as a student focused on a classical and realist style through to the more somber and carnivalesque “pink and blue” period.
“We are not here to make Picasso more famous, but to bring to the people the magic of the real works of art,” Laurent Le Bon, director of the Picasso Museum in Paris which has loaned many of the artworks for the show, told EFE.
“My expectation is to bring a little amount of happiness,” Le Bon continued.
“To meet in 30 years someone who tells me: I remember 2019 I saw this show and now I am an artist, a photographer thanks to that,” he added.
Punters will enjoy a range of masterpieces, such as a study for “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” (1907) considered a seminal piece of the early stages of cubism and modern art.
The show is part of a years-long arts festival that celebrates ties between France and China.
The festival was consolidated after President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China in January 2018, where he said his hope to see more art exhibitions traveling from France to the Asian giant in coming years.
However, Picasso’s relationship with China is not a novelty.
Many Chinese artists traveled to France to learn about modern art and some met Picasso, and cubism and wrote about it, Philip Tinari, director of the UCCA said.
“In 1944, Picasso joined the French Communist Party so his influence in the second world throughout the cold war period was quite great,” Tinari continued.
“In 1948, he painted a dove for the Congress of world peace in Paris and this dove actually ran on the front page of the people’s daily only two days after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, on Oct. 3, 1949,” the expert said.
There has been much anticipation in the build-up to the launch of this show, and many visitors on Saturday told EFE that they had reserved tickets for the opening day months in advance.
“I book my tickets one month ago,” one visitor said.
“Picasso is a very well known artist but is the first time so many of his original paintings are showing in China. I have been in some great museums in Europe but never seen this amount of paintings of him before,” the Chinese fan concluded.