Masterpieces from Musee National Picasso, Paris
Masterpieces from Paris’s Musée National Picasso roll into town, writes Nick Dent.
For me, painting is a dramatic action in the course of which reality finds itself split apart.” Pablo Picasso was a great one for aphorisms and Picasso expert Terence Maloon is particularly fond of that one. “It’s marvellous, because painting, like speech, is made of discontinuity trying to represent a continuum, and Picasso’s work dramatises that.”
The Picassos – 55 original works (48 paintings and seven sculptures) covering every phase of his prolific career, as well as 50 photographs and four documentary films – are in Hong Kong because the Musée National Picasso is having its roof replaced. The Musée was created after the artist’s death in an 18th-century mansion in the Marais district of Paris and its collection consists of works from Picasso’s personal collection that the French government took in lieu of death duties. Rather than have the works put in storage, the director of the museum, Anne Baldassari, has coordinated a worldwide tour of a large part of the permanent display.
The most significant Picasso exhibition ever held in Hong Kong gives locals an insight into why the Spaniard remains the most famous artist in the world. There are examples from his Blue and Rose periods, as well as the Cubist, Expressionist, Neoclassical and Surrealist periods. “He set the agenda for modern art for an incredibly long time,” says Maloon, “because he was so abundantly gifted and so astoundingly inventive. There are some forms of art that wouldn’t exist if not for his inventions. The whole basis of art – that there was a proportional system that couldn’t be violated – all of that disappeared because of him.”
The exhibition spans the young Picasso, a technical wizard who could mimic the styles of artists such as Van Gogh, Rodin and Derain; the mature artist, who redefined what art was and could be; and the ageing genius, following his muse in manifold directions. “My metaphor is that he’s like a jazz musician, taking things apart and putting them together in every performance,” says Maloon.
The show is a one-off chance for Hongkongers to view works of massive historical importance here. “These works, they don’t pander to taste that already exists – you have to come around to them,” Maloon continues. “Wordsworth said that truly great artists create the taste by which their works are to be savoured, and that’s very important to understand with Picasso.”
Picasso – Masterpieces from Musée National Picasso, Paris is at Hong Kong Heritage Museum, May 19-Jul 22, as part of Le French May. Tickets: 2734 9009; www.urbtix.hk.