Based on outstanding research by historian Annie Cohen-Solal, the exhibition reframes our understanding of the work and trajectory of Picasso, one of the greatest artists of all time.
It seems that everything has been said about Picasso. No other body of work has provoked as much passion, debate, and controversy. But who knows about the obstacles that faced the young Spanish genius who ﬁrst reached Paris in time for the 1900 Universal Exhibition, without speaking a word of French? How did Picasso ﬁnd his way in the modern metropolis, a place still shattered by the aftermath of the Dreyfus Aﬀair ? How did he navigate his ﬁrst friendships, his ﬁrst successes in Paris ? Why was his application for naturalization denied in 1940 ? And how did he feel when his work was celebrated all over the western world, but remained invisible in the museums of his host country until 1947?
These are some of the questions that Picasso the Foreigner addresses and answers. Author and curator Annie Cohen-Solal insists that Picasso’s condition as a foreigner in France —even a pariah— deeply stuctured his artistic creativity. Cohen-Solal’s research in previously unexplored archives reveals a drastically new narrative of Picasso’s years in France, a country of sometimes obsolete cultural institutions shaken by waves of xenophobia. In June 1901, at the time of his exhibition at the galerie Vollard, the police ﬁrst opened a ﬁle against the young artist, then monitored him for decades. For forty years, in the eyes of French administrations, Picasso was stigmatized as an intruder, a foreigner, a radical, an avant-garde artist —all labels that he seemingly ignored, but that undeniably affected his daily life and work.
Beyond his considerable artistic oeuvre, Picasso was also a shrewd political strategist, becoming a signiﬁcant contributor to France’s cultural modernization. In 1955, he left Paris forever to settle in the Midi. There, he reinvented himself as a global artist and illustrious foreigner while anchoring his work with local craftsmen, and openly contesting the standards of good taste which held sway in the French museum world. Today, in the midst of a global migration crisis, it appears essential, urgent, and necessary to reassess Picasso’s trajectory and work. For his odyssey as a foreigner and his agency as an artist are powerful models for our times.