The world-premiere Melbourne Winter Masterpieces® exhibition, The Picasso Century, charts the extraordinary career of Pablo Picasso in dialogue with the many artists, poets and intellectuals with whom he intercepted and interacted throughout the 20th century, including Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Alberto Giacometti, Françoise Gilot, Valentine Hugo, Marie Laurencin, Dora Maar, André Masson, Henri Matisse, Guillaume Apollinaire, Dorothea Tanning and Gertrude Stein.
Exclusively developed for the NGV by the Centre Pompidou and the Musée national Picasso-Paris, the exhibition features over 80 works by Picasso alongside over 100 works by more than 50 of his contemporaries, drawn from premier French national collections, as well as the NGV Collection. Audiences will also have the opportunity to discover a rich selection of works by artists rarely exhibited in Australia, including Natalia Goncharova, Julio González, Wifredo Lam, Suzanne Valadon and Maria Helena Vieira da Silva.
Curated by noted scholar of 20th century painting Didier Ottinger, Deputy Director of the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Picasso Century examines the diverse influences, encounters and collaborative relationships that steered Picasso through many distinct artistic periods, such as his Blue Period, Cubism and Surrealism, and draws lines between Picasso’s famous creations and the world around him.
By exploring Picasso’s career through his personal, artistic and intellectual engagement with his peers, the exhibition provides a unique insight into the artistic legacy of one of the 20th century’s most influential and celebrated artists, as well as the community of artists from which he emerged.
Twelve thematic sections organise The Picasso Century, which trace the many distinct periods that shaped the artist’s career over more than seven decades, while also situating his work within a broader artistic and geographical context. Each exhibition section provides a nuanced perspective on a rich century of artistic experiment, in which Picasso stands prominently among many innovators.
The beginning of the exhibition explores Picasso’s formative years, which encapsulate significant artistic developments, most notably Cubism, the development of which Picasso led with Georges Braque. Considered by many the ‘experiment’ that most radically transformed 20th century art, Cubism saw Western art move away from representing likeness and, among many innovations, introduced multiple and simultaneous perspectives into a composition, resulting in the style’s recognisable fragmented imagery.
The Picasso Century also examines Picasso’s place within the multicultural crucible that was inter-war Paris, and his interaction with other artists and writers including André Breton, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti. The exhibition will be particularly rich with works from Picasso’s Surrealist period, presented alongside works by many other artists associated with the movement, including Kay Sage, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico and André Masson.
The final sections of the exhibition explore Picasso’s work in an increasingly international art world post–1945 and examines the contested artistic output towards the end of his career. His work of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s are positioned alongside later generations of painters, including Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning.
The inevitable question of Picasso’s legacy in the 21st century will be posed through the inclusion of the video I see a woman crying, 2009 by Rineke Dijkstra. This engaging contemporary work invites reflection on Picasso’s position as a point of reference for all who seek to understand the history of 20th century art.
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces® – The Picasso Century Exhibition
10 June – 9 October 2022
NGV International, Melbourne