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The Picasso Century opens at NGV

The Picasso Century opens at NGV


Picasso comes to Melbourne: The latest Winter Masterpieces exhibition at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) International opens today.

Previewed for the media on Thursday 9 June, the exhibition underlines the fact that there are always exceptions to the idea that the world is looking for a break from celebrating all those ubiquitous dead white males.

Indeed, it’s clear that this world premiere exhibition, developed exclusively for the NGV by the Centre Pompidou and Musée national Picasso-Paris, has made a concerted effort to include notable female artists alongside the usual suspects that you may expect to see in such a widespread retrospective.

Yes, there are extraordinary works by Georges Braque, Joan Miró and Salvador Dali. But there are also relevant and fascinating contributions from the Russian painter Natalia Gonchorova, Dora Maar and Dorothea Tanning, the US artist and writer who was influenced by Surrealism, lived to 101 and was still painting in her late 80s.

Dorothea Tanning American 1910–2012 A very happy picture 1947 oil on canvas 91.1 x 122.0 cm Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne-Centre de création industrielle Purchased by the State, 1968 © The Estate of Dorothea Tanning/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2022 Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM/Dist. RMN-GP

But above all, of course, there is the towering figure of the Spanish master, Pablo Picasso, given an extraordinary spotlight in a curation that takes up two sides of the ground floor of the NGV. It includes paintings, sculpture and other ceramics, and breaks up his career into logical sections, beginning with his early days in Montmartre and traverses his many periods, including the Blue, African-influenced, Cubism and Surrealism, before winding up with the larger expressive pieces he created towards the end of his life.

Pablo Picasso Spanish 1881–1973 Cat seizing a bird (Chat saisissant un oiseau) 22 April 1939 oil on canvas 81.0 x 100.0 cm Musée national Picasso-Paris Donated in lieu of tax, 1979 © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022 Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau

The exhibition also traces Picasso’s political life, his subtle and not so subtle acts of rebellion against the Nazi Occupation of France, joining the French Communist Party and his ensuing disillusionment and distrust of the cult of Stalin.

One thing that differentiated the media preview was the fabulous innovation of having curator Didier Ottinger (deputy director of Musée national d’art modern, Centre Pompidou, Paris) give a potted lecture before the doors to the exhibition were opened.

Making a welcome change from the practice of the curator touring the exhibition and stopping at various points to share their thoughts, his presentation was perfectly judged – neither too shallow and perfunctory for those well-versed on the topic, nor too academic or verbose to overwhelm the less informed.

Marie Laurencin French 1883–1956 Apollinaire and his friends (2nd version) (Apollinaire et ses amis [2ème version]) 1909 oil on canvas 130.0 x 194.0 cm Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne-Centre de création industrielle Donated in lieu of tax, 1973 © Fondation Foujita/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2022 Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Audrey Laurans/Dist. RMN-GP

Of course, regular visitors won’t be able to enjoy this particular aspect, but as is usual with Winter Masterpieces, there are a slew of sidebars, associated programs and exclusive performances to inform or enhance their experience.

These include the four-part in-depth monthly discussions ‘Two Perspectives on Picasso’, Melbourne Masterclasses presented by Melbourne University’s Faculty of the Arts, Drop-by Poetry and Drop-by Collage workshops, schools’ and children’s programs, the very popular NGV Friday Nights live music performances and a host of other events.

The Picasso Century is at NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne and runs until 9 October 2022. You can find out more about what’s on offer at the NGV website.

Top image: Pablo Picasso  Spanish 1881–1973  Figures by the sea (Figures au bord de  la mer) 12 January 1931  oil on canvas  130.0 x 195.0 cm  Musée national Picasso-Paris  Donated in lieu of tax, 1979  © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022  Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau 

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