It is little wonder that several cities wish to lay claim to having played a part in the genius of Picasso. Arguably the most important artist of the 20th century, Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso (yes, those 23 words were his full name) pioneered the Cubist movement and made considerable contributions to Surrealism and Symbolism. Three cities in particular have strong links with the artist: Málaga, Barcelona and Paris. Picasso spent his formative years as an artist in Barcelona where, as a young man, he trained at the Escola de Belles Artes; in Paris, whilst in exile, he soaked up the brothels and decadence of the French capital, and also produced some of his most seminal work. But it was in Málaga, his native city, that his gusto for artistic endeavour was ignited.
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Barcelona’s and Paris’ claims to Picasso were granted tangible recognition in the form of museums opened in 1963 and 1985 respectively. However, Málaga had to wait until the new millennium for its own piece of the Picasso pie. Half a century beforehand, Picasso’s own efforts to pay heed to his native city in the shape of a hefty donation of his collection were halted by the military regime. In 2003, thanks to contributions made by Picasso’s daughter-in-law, Christine, and her son, Paul, The Museo Picasso in Málaga was opened.
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Whereas much of the 574-piece collection that is housed in Barcelona focuses on Picasso’s blue period and the years between 1890 and 1917 (with the exception of the Las Meninas series), Málaga’s stock covers eight decades of Picasso’s work and includes some of his final 1970s pieces. The layout reflects the themes of Picasso’s oeuvre: his strong sense of tradition, roots and the familial; his depictions of everyday objects; the most marginalised people in society and his sense of social justice. The collection includes fundamental works such as Olga Khokhlova with a Mantilla (1917), Woman with Raised Arms (1936), and Bather (1971), one of Picasso’s later works in which the artist is seen, even in old age, to retain his fascination with the manipulation of pictorial space.
This summer the museum will display some of Picasso’s lesser-known works from their permanent collection, and for which the dates of the canvases are still to be ascertained. Picasso will have to free up some wall space in his dedicated museum this summer, too, for an equally vibrant fellow artist, Jackson Pollock. His painting Mural arrives at Museo Picasso on 20 April until 11 September. It will be the first, and possibly the last, time that this painting can survive the trip to Spain, owing to conservation concerns. The dizzying work was commissioned by art collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim for her New York City apartment in 1943. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, northern Spain, has the foundation of the same family behind it and, excitingly, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is all set for a 2017 launch.
Juego de ojos by Pablo Picasso
Back to Malaga, and just around the corner from the Museo Picasso stands the Fundación Picasso, the Casa Natal de Picasso. The building includes a museum of the artist’s childhood home, a documentation centre, and exhibition spaces. The centre will exhibit Arte Español a la Collección de la Fundación Picasso until 5 June 2016, with works by Joan Miró, Antoni Tàpies, Antonio Miralda and Antonio Saura and others.
Picasso left Málaga in 1891 when he was just ten. Nonetheless, the knowledge he gained of many diverse and exotic characters, cultures and ideas enriched and informed much of his genius, and Málaga and his Andalucían roots will linger forever in his work. www.andalucia.com