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The most significant Picasso exhibition in China opens in Beijing

2019/6/20 9:44:48   source:CGTN

The artist most known to the public, if not Leonardo da Vinci, is Picasso.

Titled “Picasso – Birth of a Genius,” the exhibition brings 103 art pieces by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) to the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. It is also considered the most significant Picasso exhibition ever held in China in terms of scale and quality.

Starting from June 15, Picasso, the most influential artist of the 20th century and one of the greatest in history, is given new life in an exhibition at the other end of the Eurasia continent away from his hometown, in China.

Based on collections from Musée national Picasso-Paris, the exhibition tries to bring original Picasso art to young Chinese audiences.

But why is it called Birth of a Genius”? The seemingly clichéd theme speaks to the exhibition's emphasis on the artist's youth, when many his various creative ideas and artistic concepts came into being.

Exploring the first three decades of Picasso’s career, the exhibition is presented in six sections: “The First Picasso,” “Picasso Blue and Rose,” “Picasso the Exorcist,” “Picasso the Cubist,” “Picasso the Chameleon” by sequence of his works, together with a wrap-up section.

The period selected for the exhibition is a key time for young Picasso in discovering his artistic pursuit, which paved the way for further exploration in his later works. The traces of his early concepts are illustrated in the wrap-up section, where a range of paintings and sculptures between 1927 and 1972 are shown.

An invitation to dance

However, instead of a rigid classification of all his works, the sections are intertwined and related to each other. As Emilia Philippot, the curator, put it, even within one section or one year, you can find both an avant-garde and a traditional Picasso. People get used to dividing a master’s life into phases, but the fact is “more complex” than that.

Structured in five golden brown triangular cuboids and a space segmented by them, the exhibition also tries to build a sense of dialogue following the natural flow of time with its layout and interior designs.

Each cuboid for presenting one section has open slots and windows on the artificial facades. While in one cuboid, visitors can have a glimpse of the art pieces in phases presented in other sections. Such a design links visitors to Picasso’s past and future.

“In one space, you already see what is going to happen in the future of the painter, because you can foresee some paintings in the back,” Adrien Gardère, the designer of the exhibition said. “But if you turn around, you can see also the influence or the legacy of the early work that talks to a later work.”

The designer called the move to “turn around and see” as “dance.”

“It’s an invitation to dance, dance with the art work. That’s my job.”

Always contemporary

Compared with many fancy exhibitions with interactive installations and eye-catching designs nowadays, this Picasso exhibit could be easily categorized as traditional or classic. However, to rigidly label the artist like that may be unfair because he is a versatile and very modern artist.

In the exhibition, not only are his most renowned paintings like “Reading,” “The Kiss,” and studies for “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” featured, but also his sculptures, sketches, collages, and handmade artifacts.

The photos from his studio show that he also made installations. In 1919, he even made designs for Ballets Russes production of “Le Tricorne,” featuring settings, curtains, and costumes.

“It was really a performance in a way because you have the music, you have the movement, you have the painting, and you have to choose costumes,” Philippot said. “This is the reason why I say his heritage is huge and always contemporary, even today.”

The uniqueness of Cubism and collage

Among various art styles and explorations by Picasso, the most significant ones may be Cubism and collage.

As the co-inventor of Cubism, Picasso creatively drew different sides of a three-dimensional subject onto a flat surface, describing an entire view of the subject by putting together a number of abstract shreds, avoiding the traditional usage of perspectives.

However, later, when he realized the method caused a distance between the real world and art, he tried to reconnect the two by making collages. In “Violin and Music Sheets (1912),” he even included a real music sheet as part of the work.

Today, when you look at what makes a contemporary artist, I’m not sure they could have done that without Picasso before,” Philippot said.

Inspirations from the East

The Spanish artist’s ties with China go back to the 1950s. In 1956, he met with artist Zhang Ding, who is also a co-designer for the Chinese national emblem, and they exchanged gifts. The art album of Qi Baishi (a traditional Chinese painter) that Zhang gave him had a stirring effect on him. He imitated and studied from it in a subsequent period.

Picasso also met Zhang Daqian, another traditional Chinese painter, in the same year.

The exhibition runs until September 1.

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Sponsor:Information Office of Shandong Provincial People’s Government