Text Cesare Cunaccia
Pablo Ruiz y Picasso. A giant, the Minotaur that casts its disturbing shadow across the art of the entire 20th century. Larger than life, possessing inexhaustible energy, a man that embodies expressive and existential evolutions, infinite and unpredictable. Picasso is a heroic and controversial figure of the 20th century, a subject of debate and progressive analysis, the focus of major exhibits, like the riverside exhibit recently inaugurated in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay, which focuses on the Blue and Rose period of his artistic career. Exhibits that explore above all his boundless body of pictorial woks and his mastery of drawing and etching, throughout the various stylistic periods that characterized his development, from Bateau-Lavoir onwards.
Recognition of Picasso’s sculptural body of work is less frequent. This seems strange, given that in the post-WW2 period this important aspect of the artist’s career was already the exclusive subject of a Brassaï catalogue with images, published by his dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, and was, subsequently, the focus of exhibits in Rome and Milan in the early 1950s and in Paris, London, and New York between 1966 and 1968. Finally, the retrospectives at the Beaubourg in Paris in 2000, at the MoMa in NYC, and at the Museé Picasso, also in Paris, in 2015, successfully and fully highlighted Picasso’s essential contribution in the field of sculpture to the artistic production of modern art.
Despite some recognition, Picasso’s sculpture remains more obscure than the iconic paintings that we are all familiar with. Almost as though the artist himself wanted to keep this particular creative field an intimate secret, a field that was, moreover, fundamental and consistently explored throughout decades of work, dating as far back as his Parisian beginnings. Starting in 1946, in particular, he dedicated himself to a multifaceted experimentation with forms and matter, often exploring ancestral techniques. Not just bronze, but immersing himself in ceramics in Vallauris (a medium which he used with intense and dazzling strength), alongside a series of carved stones that evoke images from mythology, and creating vases and animals.
The retrospective in Rome, which opens on 23 October, was conceived and curated by Anna Coliva, director of the Galleria Borghese, with Diana Widmaier-Picasso, a specialist in the Picassoan sculptural discipline and Pablo’s granddaughter. This exhibit is one of the stops not only in the international Picasso-Méditerranée program, promoted by Laurent Le Bon, director of the Musée Picasso in Paris, but also in the study and examination of the concept of sculpture that spans centuries, exploring milieux and artists that are quite different and apparently distant from one another, undertaken by the Galleria Borghese last autumn with its celebration of the primary artist in Roman Baroque sculpture, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The exhibit features fifty-five masterpieces dating from 1902 to 1961, with various video contributions and a significant endowment of documentary photography featuring his studio, including some never-before-seen photographs.
It is an occasion, given the presence in Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s collection of many masterpieces by Bernini and Caravaggio and important paintings by Raffaello Sanzio, including the Pala Baglioni, accompanied by numerous testaments to that archaeological taste which characterizes the Patrician-Roman collections from the 16th and 18th centuries, to share in Picasso’s emotion during his trip to Rome and Naples in 1917, in the company of Cocteau and Stravinskij. A trip that introduced him to the Italian renaissance, archaeology, and Mediterranean archetypes, which for him became harbingers of change, challenges, and profound reflection.
In that fateful year of 1917, Picasso, who arrived in Rome in February to develop the curtain, costumes, and scenery for Parade – music by Satie and text by Jean Cocteau – for the Ballets Russes of Sergei Pavlovič Djagilev, came face to face with Bernini’s sculptures at the Galleria Borghese and, in the Vatican, encountered the masterful hand of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel and the Neoplatonism of Raffael’s paintings, as he declared Caravaggio to be the ‘master of mise en scene’. So Pablo put himself to the test, assimilating and challenging the classical style, sharply emphasizing formal and compositional values, combining parodic representations and creating a new and fuller stylistic tone, one that is more sculpturally and three-dimensionally alive, even in his way of painting. He discovered a dimension that one might describe as radiant and ‘colossal’. Like a Nordic gentleman fulfilling his archaeological dream, from Rome he travelled to Naples, embarking on a sort of Grand Tour, nourished by the graphic, sensual, and opulent nectar of Pompeian art and by the sun of Italy’s coasts.
Fendi, within the context of the four-year institutional partnership which it has developed with the Galleria Borghese, once again supports an appointment with culture and art. It is once more engaging in a dialogue with Rome, the city to which it belongs, in a close relationship based on love and patronage; it interprets the stories and the creative climate of yesterday and today, cultivating memory as a platform on which to build the future.