MALAGA, Spain – The Picasso Museum in the artist’s Spanish hometown of Malaga has given its permanent collection a revamp and relaunched on Tuesday as confinement measures continue to ease in the country.
“We discover once again some aspects of Picasso’s work that we might have known from books but that now as they are on display in this manner we can realize even more how diverse the artist was and the phobia he had of becoming a slave to himself and how little he liked being an academic artist,” artistic director Jose Lebrero tells EFE.
The halls of the Buenavista Palace launched the collection of 120 works Tuesday which was guest-curated by Pepe Karmel, professor at the Art Department of the University of New York.
According to Lebrero, Karmel divides Picasso’s career into three stages: “One in which he considers him a revolutionary when he goes to Paris and Cubism is born.”
The second stage corresponds with the interwar period when Picasso became “a benchmark of the avant-garde,” and Karmel identifies him as an “old magician” during the third period between the 1940s and 50s.
During this last phase Picasso achieved “international recognition beyond artistic feuds but still creating and surprising from his retreat in the south of France.”
This chronology uses traditional concepts to anchor the exhibition such as portraiture or still life and unveils “surprise works” like the 1957 tapestry created from Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which belonged to Picasso.
The Spanish artist was always “curious at how others interpreted his work,” Lebrero explains.
In the still life section “The Absinthe Glass” packs a “punch to the tradition of sculpture” of the times by crafting a banal representation of the container the hallucinogenic beverage, ubiquitous at bohemian nightclubs, was served in.
In the 1920s Picasso turned his gaze to classical painting and “questioned neoclassical notions that had been abused and which had fueled criticism of Picasso, who did not necessarily want to be the cubist artist that suited the vanguard,” says Lebrero.
In the following stage he was linked to surrealism, despite not being a surrealist painter.
His depiction of the female form was more the stuff of “fantasy or phantasmagoria.”
Between 1927 and 1932 Picasso’s women took became “a series of connected fragments” as well as also taking on organic shapes like “vegetables, roots or tubercles.”
The collection also includes references to Greco-Latin mythology and the figure of the Minotaur, “a character who has something of a human and savage about him, and which relates to his obsessions and desires and to the theme of carnality, possession, strength and submission,” the expert adds.
When Paris was liberated from the Nazis, Picasso’s work was “dark, not joyous or optimistic, with broken figures and characters that convey more uncertainty or distance than proximity,” according to Lebrero.
But from 1944 onwards the painter reinvented himself and produced “more positive” female figures.
A large section of the show is dedicated to Picasso’s interest in animals with owls, cats, bulls and pigeons recurring in his works spanning the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
The last room focuses on the artist’s final stage from 1965 onwards after undergoing a major operation “he begins to paint in a very intense way,” he continues.
The works “surprise everyone, disappoint a fair few and, for a time, are considered residual and decadent, but later are appreciated for their sense of freedom,” Lebrero says.
Picasso’s work “can continue to surprise,” he adds.
He was an artist who was born in the 19th century and became a transgressive icon in the 20th century “but the big question is how valid and relevant is he in the 21st century?”
“Resolving that is one of our missions,” he concludes.