Picasso.mania – Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais

Stephanie van den Hende
Oct 2, 2015 7:47AM

An exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée national Picasso-Paris.  

Will you keep on painting much longer?
Yes. It’s my mania.
Interview, 11 May 1959. Quoted in Picasso, Propos sur l’art, Paris, Gallimard, 1998.

The twenty or so solo or group exhibitions since 1973 that have focused on the study of the posterity of Pablo Picasso’s oeuvre testify to its impact on contemporary art. The exhibition at the Grand Palais takes a simultaneously chronological and thematic approach to the critical and artistic highlights of Picasso’s career and the myth that gradually built up around his name.

From Cubist still lifes to the Musketeers in the exhibitions in Avignon in 1970 and 1973, the exhibition is punctuated by works by Picasso from the collections of the Picasso Museum in Paris, the Musée national d’art moderne, and the artist’s family. They are presented in a way reminiscent of the artist’s arrangements in his studios and the exhibitions that he personally supervised (Georges Petit gallery in Paris in 1932, Palais des Papes in Avignon in 1970 and 1973).

The great stylistic phases (Cubism, Late Work), and emblematic works by Pablo Picasso (Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Guernica) are put alongside contemporary creations, grouped by artist (David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Martin Kippenberger...) or by theme, in a great variety of media and techniques (video, painting, sculpture, graphic arts, film, photography, installation).

David Hockney’s Polaroid montages and multiscreen videos echo Picasso’s Cubism and his exploration of a multifocal space. In the early 1960s, Pop artists on both sides of the Atlantic (Lichtenstein, Erró…) took hold of the portraits made in the 1930s which established the archetypal image of Picasso’s painting. The Shadow (1954) was the starting point for a series of four paintings begun by Jasper Johns in 1985 (The Four Seasons are displayed in the exhibition).

Showing the impact of Picasso’s public image on the imagination of 20th-century artists, Martin Kippenberger twice (in 1988 and 1995) interpreted David Douglas Duncan’s photographic portraits of Picasso and Jacqueline.

Variations inspired by Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica demonstrate the importance of those paintings in the history of modern art and beyond that in the collective imagination (neither work is present because they cannot be transported). The birth certificate of modern painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, is the source of variations by Faith Ringgold, Robert Colescott and others which comment on the ethnocentric, masculine dimension of the modernity of which the work has become emblematic.

One room shows how Guernica has become a universal social and political icon: a historical interpretation of Guernica by Emir Kusturica; the revelation of the symbolic role played by its transposition into a tapestry now on the walls of the United Nations Security Council building (Goshka Macuga, The Nature of the Beast, 2009); the use of Picasso’s painting in the American artists’ struggle against the Vietnam war; and protesters brandishing the image in street demonstrations.

The work of Picasso’s last years has once more become a source of inspiration through exhibitions which have put it the center of contemporary art (A New Spirit in Painting, Royal Academy of Arts, 1981), and sought to explain its meaning (Das Spätwerk. Themen: 1964-1972, Basel, 1981; The Last Years, Guggenheim Museum, 1984). His stylistic eclecticism, his “cannibalism” of the Old Masters, and the free brushwork of the last paintings inspired the generation of artists that emerged in the early 1980s (Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, George Condo, Julian Schnabel, Vincent Corpet…).

Rineke Dijkstra’s video installation, I see a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman, 2009-2010) illustrates the presence of Picasso’s work in artists’ imagination today in a wide range of expressions from cinema to digital imagery, video and graphic albums.


General curator: Didier Ottinger, assistant director of the Musée national d’Art moderne - Centre Pompidou.
Curators: Diana Widmaier-Picasso, art historian, and Emilie Bouvard, curator at the Musée national Picasso-Paris exhibition. Design: bGc studio, Giovana Comana et Iva Berthon Gajsak.

Stephanie van den Hende