The Picasso Museum -- housed in the elegant Hôtel Salé in the Marais area of Paris -- has gone through turmoil. Since shutting its doors in 2009 in order to undertake a complete renovation, it ran into inordinate delays and general dissatisfaction with its president, Anne Baldassari. Several staff members resigned, and Laurent Le Bon was named president earlier this year to replace Ms. Baldassari (who remains as curator).
The museum, finally reopened to the public last week, is a glistening white showcase for its vast Picasso collection, which was donated to France by the Picasso family in lieu of inheritance taxes. There are more than five thousand works: paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs. It is an awesome collection, including some of Picasso's earliest works from his youthful years in Spain to his last works as an old man in the south of France. Many of the items are familiar and iconic: portraits of his lovers, his children, his models, and some studies for Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon, his big, ground-breaking abstraction. Predictably, there are a number of bull-fight drawings and some agonizing portraits done in his old age.
His sculptures are the most surprising works of all. Picasso actually preferred sculpture to painting, but it was too tedious a process for his quicksilver personality. The sculptures he did produce are astounding -- not only his famous goat, but large, black, abstract figures that suggest Giacometti or Arp. And his small montages of wood and metal could be hung in any avant-garde gallery today.
Would the master be happy with this new showcase for his work? Perhaps. The stark white galleries are a little too clinical for this exuberant man. One thinks of his cluttered studio on the Rue des Grands Augustins, on the Left Bank, and one wishes he could pop in here and mess things up a bit.