Picasso Mania!


We all know by now that Picasso looms large—as both a pioneering artist and pop culture icon. But the enduring and wildly eclectic impact of his work, legend and image really comes alive in Picasso.Mania, a new exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris that looks at the vital role Picasso continues to play in the imaginations of many leading contemporary artists. Co-curated by Picasso’s grand-daughter Diana Widemaier Picasso, along with Didier Ottinger, the chief curator and assistant director of the Pompidou Center, and the Picasso Museum’s Emilie Bouvard, Picasso.Mania opens with a striking grid of videos, featuring contemporary artists as varied as John Baldessari, Jeff Koons and Sarah Sze talking about the master. The survey features some 414 works, 101 by Picasso, the rest by artists working in sculpture, film, painting, installation and video. Picasso gets rooms to himself; the others share space but certainly not approaches to his manic original output. Jasper Johns pays homage to two Picasso paintings: The Shadow, 1953, and Minotaur Moving His House, 1936 for his 1985 quartet The Seasons, all of which are gathered here from private collections, Martin Kippenberger humorously riffs on the artist’s outsized ego via the 1988 David Douglas Duncan photograph of Picasso on the steps of his home in Cannes, wearing enormous briefs. Kippenberg’s response is a large-format self-portrait based on photographs he took of himself dressed in only size XXL white briefs. “We chose to show the Picasso works the way Picasso himself showed them in his studio and also when he curated his own show at Galerie Georges Petit in 1932: on top of each other, more like a laboratory of thoughts,” Widmaier Picasso explained the other day, on the eve of Picasso’s birthday. (He was born October 25, 1991). “If we say that Duchamp is the father of the ready-made, then Picasso is the father of installation work, which is very much part of contemporary art.” Here, Widmaier-Picasso picks out a few of the show’s highlights.


“In the first room we are welcomed by Maurizio Cattalan’s Picasso. I saw this work when he first presented it at MoMA in New York in 1998. Visitors would take photographs next to him the way you would with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. It’s as if to say he’s more than an iconic painter; he’s an iconic figure for popular culture. He also did a performance where he had several actors dressed as Picasso. “

Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled (Picasso), 1998.


“Some artists, like Koons, George Condo and Jasper Johns, are inspired by Picasso and then, when they become successful, collect Picasso. Here, in a recent work from 2011, Koons imitates Picasso’s signature in the upper left corner of the painting. He’s superimposed different images. One of them is of a 1969 “kiss” painting by Picasso that Koons bought at auction. There is also a copy of a Titian, some antique sculptures and a reference to African art. This is interesting coming from an artist like Koons who always claimed his spiritual father was Duchamp. Koons is constantly changing styles.”


“When artists think of Picasso, this is what represents Picasso the most: these psychological portraits and this double profile. I love watching people look at this wall. Most of these paintings come from the Picasso museum or my family. On the top, second from right, is my grandmother, Marie Thérèse-Walter, who met Picasso in 1927 when she was 17 and he was 45. Below her just to the right, is my great grandmother. Both of these portraits were done in 1939—which is surprising considering the overwhelming presence of Marie- Thérèse’s beauty and the fact that this is 12 years after they met. I love the pose. She’s very confident. There’s so much sensuality. Everything with Picasso is about lust and the flesh. My grandmother spent a lot of time with her mother when she was not with my grandfather. Picasso and my great grandmother got along very well. She was a great pianist so he was very amused by the fact that she could play jazz for him.”


“I love this video by Rineke Dijkstra. These are nine school children looking at Picasso’s Weeping Woman, Picasso’s 1937 portrait of his mistress Dora Maar, at the Tate Liverpool. We never see what they are looking at; we just see them looking at something and trying to figure out what it means to them. The artwork comes alive in their faces and words. They have so much imagination. They should be art critics.”

Rineke Dijkstra, “I See a Woman Crying (Weeping Woman),” 2009.


“This series of Warhol is great. He had seen the Christian Zervos catalogue raisonné of Picasso (the most prominent catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s paintings and drawings, comprising 33 volumes) and made this series after some drawings that he was looking at. Picasso and Warhol both worked in printing and series—and both repeated images over and over. Warhol envied Picasso’s celebrity.”

Andy Warhol, (Head after Picasso).


“In my interview with him for the opening video, Houseago told me that he had dreamt about Picasso when he was a teenager. He said it was like a mystical dream. Picasso had a beard and was embracing him and encouraging him to become an artist. This monumental work reminds you that Picasso constantly worked with sculpture and painting and drawing. It’s Eros holding back Thanatos.” Thomas Houseago, “Baby.”


“This wall is done in the style of Picasso’s 1970 exhibition in Avignon where they were shown salon style without a frame. Picasso organized it. He lent the works and displayed them. At the time the paintings were not understood at all. People said that Picasso was becoming senile and didn’t know how to paint anymore. But actually at the same time he was making prints that were very precise so we know he intended for these works to look this way. At this time he is 90 and painting with an urgency and all these figures are invading his work: the Musketeers, Napoleon , a woman happily pissing (far left), a work based on a famous etching by Rembrandt. Our family was fortunate because when Picasso died, the taste was not for his late works, so the when the state selected works for the Picasso Museum (to pay off the estate taxes), many of Picasso’s late works were not chosen. So they remain in the family. All of these works on that wall come from the original Avignon show.”


“George Condo, like Picasso, is a great storyteller, so there’s a lot of vitality coming out of each work. George picked the ones he wanted to hang on this wall. When you see them together, it’s very erotic. The women are very dominant in the work and there’s a great sense of humor, which Picasso also had. Picasso had a huge influence on Condo, not only because he was a great draftsmen, because they feel the same attraction to eroticism. We liked the idea that visitors exit the exhibition through this wall by Condo. In a way, you cannot escape Picasso. You have to go through him.“