The Picasso Museum Reopens

picasso2After almost an endless string of delays lasting over five years, The Picasso Museum finally reopened last October. It came with much controversy and drama as the head of the museum was fired over the delays in a bitter battle between the Picasso family and the museum. Sorely missed as a top attraction in the Marais, it’s in full swing again with long waits to enter. I purposely waited till the New Year and went in March when all the hubbub died down and there weren’t hoards of people hogging the viewing space.

The museum, a former hotel de particulier built in 1659, was one of the grandest palaces in the Marais and called the Hotel de Salé, as the owner Pierre Aubert was a salt tax farmer. The building was sold many times over but the longest reign was from 1792 to 1962, privately owned by the same family and housed various institutions including the Ganser-Beuzelin boarding school, where Balzac studied; the municipal École centrale des arts et manufactures (prestigious engineering school) and in 1944, it was occupied by the City of Paris École des Métiers d’Art. It was sold to the city in 1964 and restored from 1974-1979. After Picasso’s death in 1973, the family quickly decided in 1974 to donate his work in lieu of paying the exorbitant estate taxes. Working in tandem with the family, Michel Guy, French Secretary of State for Culture, they chose the Hotel Salé as the space for the museum.

picasso 1One of the most important changes to the museum was the gallery space was almost doubled, as the offices were moved to a newly constructed building next door. Obviously the expansion allowed for many more works from the collection to be shown than before which is a welcome plus. Organized in an almost chronological order, it traces Picasso’s process. I started in the basement, which was a mix of early paintings and sculptures and one room was devoted to photos of the many studios and homes in Paris and France where Picasso lived and painted. The main floor had some of Picasso’s most iconic paintings including a single room with Demoiselles d’Avignon and I especially loved seeing The Guitars series and the cubist paper sculptures.

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