The much anticipated reopening of the Musée Picasso Paris in 2014 is incredibly impressive. For the last five years, a museum I had become enamored with over a decade ago has undergone a tumultuous renovation that is an artistic drama in and of itself. The museum’s public space almost tripled to 58,000 square feet, it’s budget virtually doubled to $70 million, and with allegations of mismanagement and dissent, museum directors were shockingly dismissed. Although the completion was delayed for years, it was still all worth the wait and hopefully the melodrama has all been forgotten!
Located in the Hôtel Salé, the gallery is one of the finest 17th century Baroque mansions in the Marais district of Paris. Welcomed by an expansive interior courtyard and upon entering the fine Parisian house, one can see the interior architectural detail is as curious and beautiful as the art it houses. With four stories of small rooms, a vaulted ceiling basement and a loft like attic floor with exposed beams for Picasso’s personal collection, the experience of the building and its contents are truly a visual feast.
The Musée Picasso collection originated as a series of donations to the State from his heirs in lieu of paying inheritance tax upon his death in 1973. It was also Picasso’s request to his heirs that his personal collection be given to the State. Included in his self-curated collection are pieces he owned by other artists whom he admired including Degas, Cézanne, Miró, Matisse and Henri Rousseau amongst others.
As Picasso proclaimed himself to be the ‘the greatest collector of Picassos in the world’, the museum’s vast compilation of his archives contains over 200,000 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, prints and drawings with thousands of works from all of these techniques, mediums and periods of his life on display. It is almost impossible to begin to describe the significance of the collection.
An additional bonus to the museum is its collection of 50 pieces of furniture and lighting designed by the Swiss sculptor Diego Giacometti. He had been selected by the museum director upon it’s opening in 1985 to create cohesive furnishings as a link between Picasso’s 20th century art forms and the intricacy of the 1659 Baroque Hôtel Salé in which they would reside. The bronze pieces are amusing and delicate with references to nature as evidenced by the animals and tulips in the lighting.
For anyone traveling to Paris, this should most definitely be on the ‘must see’ list of things to do. The Musée Picasso is far more than just a museum – it is many layers of historic art and architecture that leaves one feeling truly saturated with French culture!