News Column

Picasso's daughter to donate father's works to renovated Paris museum

July 26, 2014

Kim Willsher, theguardian.com



Picasso's eldest daughter has promised to donate one of her father's drawings and a notebook of sketches to the newly-renovated Paris museum dedicated to his life's work.

Maya Widmaier Picasso said the works would be handed over for the reopening of the museum on 25 October, the 133rd anniversary of the artist's birth in Spain.

The renovation of the museum in the Marais district, which has taken five years, has been mired in controversy and crisis., and the reopening date has been postponed several times. The work has run over budget and schedule, staff have issued complaints and the culture minister, AurÉlie Filippetti, fired the director in charge of the project.

The museum already has 5,000 works by Picasso, often regarded as the 21st century's greatest artist, including 300 paintings and a similar number of sculptures.

Enlarging the museum, which opened in 1985, included the purchase of a neighbouring building to create offices, and will more than double the exhibition space from 1,600 to 3,800 sq metres.

Until now, lack of space has meant only a fraction of the Picasso works held by the museum could be displayed and many were held in storage.

Widmaier Picasso, 78, appears in several of her father's works, including the celebrated series Maya with her Doll. She is the painter's daughter with Marie-ThÉrÈse Walter, his companion from 1927 to the mid 1930s, who hanged herself in 1977 four years after his death.

She announced her donation through her lawyer.

The drawing, done by in 1908 during Picasso's Cubist period, shows a woman's face. The bottom half of the face of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire is drawn on the back. The drawing of the top half of Apollinaire's face is already in the museum. The notebook contains 38 pencil studies of nudes done in April 1960.

The museum's director, Anne Baldassari, 58, has spent 23 years at the 17th century baroque HÔtel SalÉ where the collection is held, nine of them in charge. She is a renowned Picasso expert and had made the renovation the pinnacle of her career. Despite it running three years over schedule and 22m over its original 30 budget, much of which Baldassari raised by organising exhibitions of the collection abroad, she was optimistic the final result would be "worth it".

She was sacked in May, however, reportedly after a management crisis sparked staff complaints, and was replaced a month later by Laurent Le Bon.

Baldassari's removal provoked a damaging rift between France's Socialist government and Claude Picasso, the artist's only living son, who is on the museum's board. He described her sacking as "grotesque and insane" and threatened to withhold his own planned donations, including one of his father's sketchbooks.

"[Baldassari] is the scientific authority who has been responsible for the growth of the museum since many years, she has put on exhibitions with the collections abroad to raise 31m of the 52m needed for the [renovation] work, she has conceived the new spaces to rehang the collection better I have already said and I say it again, I will be very wary and will consider as an impostor any curator who thinks they can take her place," he told Le Figaro at the time.

The modernisation work will also make the museum wheelchair accessible, and will enable the number of visitors at any one time to be increased from 380 to 650, increasing admissions to an expected 850,000 a year.

Meanwhile the French ministry of culture is reported to be considering plans to open three of Paris's most celebrated museums seven days a week to encourage more visitors and compensate for cuts in subsidies. Le Figaro reported that the Louvre, the MusÉe d'Orsay and the Palais de Versailles could remain open every day, as opposed to six days a week at present. French museums are often closed on Mondays or Tuesdays.


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Source: Guardian Web


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