The new Picasso Museum

October 30 2014

Image of The new Picasso Museum

Picture: NYTimes

In the Sunday Times, Waldemar loved it. He says that following the recent sacking of the museum's director, Anne Baldassari, he was:

[...] expecting to encounter an unhinged institution trapped in a cycle of recrimination and chaos. Instead, I found a gloriously rethought Picasso experience in which his story is excitingly and inventively told, and his artistic genius forensically clear. The old Musée Picasso was a marvellous place to visit. This one is better.

Apparently, Baldassari was let back in to complete the opening hang. This, then, is her handiwork. Mercifully, and unexpectedly, the journey she has created for us is essentially chronological. As the inventors of the circuitous theme hang, French curators have much to answer for in modern museum history, but here we start at the beginning and end at the end, with just a handful of enlargements along the way. [...]

With so much that is new on show, the enlarged and reimagined spaces have gained an archival air that appears initially to dispel some of the raw power of Picasso’s art. The old museum was a mess, but the disorder seemed to suit it. Everything now is white and pristine, carefully considered and positioned. However, once some of this glaring new whiteness has faded, the power will surely loom again.

And you can certainly see where the money went — on achieving perfection. I imagine that is where the time went, as well. It is no more than Picasso deserves. All in all, a magnificent achievement. Instead of sacking Baldassari, they should have given her the Légion d’Honneur.

But in the New York Times, Holland Cotter was less convinced about some aspects:

Given such richly personal material, it’s too bad the new presentation at the Picasso Museum — officially the Musée Picasso Paris — isn’t telling that story more persuasively. Architecture is part of the problem. The museum’s 17th-century home, the Hôtel Salé, in the historic Marais district, with its garden, courtyard and two-story, sculpture-encrusted entrance hall, has never been ideal for showing art.

The interior is choppy, with smallish spaces, dead ends, and illogical connections. The original 1980s renovation laid a white-walled Corbusian gloss over this without achieving a sense of unity. The new design, by the architect Jean-François Bodin, is basically a magnified version of the old plan. There’s more space — four floors of galleries, including a vaulted basement and loftlike attic with exposed beams and views of surrounding rooftops — but their order is still hard to navigate.

An impression of discontinuity is compounded by the idiosyncratic arrangement of art devised by Ms. Baldassari, who stayed on the job just long enough to organize the inaugural show. The main installation, on the first and second floors, begins with a few paintings by the adolescent Picasso in Spain, where he was born in 1881, and others from his first stay in Paris when he was barely out of his teens. The shift is dramatic: Murillo-style realism one year, the equivalent of psychedelia the next.

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