Art lovers with a passion for Picasso can get their fix in the French capital at the revamped Musée Picasso and at a new exhibition

Picasso, forever a megastar in the history of art, is topping the bill on Paris’s cultural schedule this autumn, with an anniversary exhibition at the magnificent and recently reopened Musée Picasso and an extramural blockbuster show at the Grand Palais.

‘Three Women at the Fountain’ at the Musée Picasso

‘Three Women at the Fountain’ at the Musée Picasso

Picasso was born in Spain, but he spent most of his life in France, living and working in around 20 different places between 1900 and 1973. The enduring image of him in his trademark, striped, quintessentially French Breton top could even be the poster for his adopted Gallic-ness. But it was the immense donations from his heirs to the French state that led to the foundation of the Musée Picasso in Paris in 1985. Five thousand works and 200,000 archive items are kept in a stately listed building in the Marais district, comprising the biggest public collection of Picasso’s work in the world.

In 2009, the museum closed for five years to undergo an extensive – and expensive – renovation. It reopened in the autumn of 2014 to coincide with Picasso’s birthday, unveiling a much-awaited, revived and revamped space, three times as big and sufficiently impressive for the collection it houses. The grandeur of the museum’s 17th-century building, the Hôtel Salé, is beautifully preserved – nay, showcased: the frolicking cherubs are refreshed, as are the ornate ceiling roses and Corinthian columns; a dreamy grand staircase is bordered by iron curlicues; and elegant Parisian double doors and chequered floors are a fitting contrast to Picasso’s modern paintings, drawings and sculptures.

The Musée Picasso has the biggest public collection of Picasso’s work in the world

The Pipes of Pan

The Pipes of Pan

Filled with light, the white-cube-type galleries’ clean geometric lines complement the god of cubism’s angular work, while a new rooftop café – overlooking the museum’s courtyard and nestled among the Marais rooftops – provides a delightful setting for visitors to reflect and recharge. In addition, a brand-new Picasso concept store opens at the museum in November.

Rather than jarring, the old and new spaces blend together to create an airy and serene home in which the scantily-clad men in The Pipes of Pan can take in the sunshine that streams in from outside. It is a neutral backdrop for the bright, passionate portraits of Picasso’s muse Dora Maar; and a storied environment for avant-garde masterpieces such as the Large Nude in a Red Armchair. The overall ambience is monumentally historic yet resolutely modern – much like the genius artist himself 

Celebrating the past while being of the present is very much the leitmotif of the museum and is apparent in a new permanent exhibition starting this October to coincide with the Musée Picasso’s 30th anniversary. ¡Picasso! – spread over all five floors of the Hôtel Salé – shows the harmony between the museum’s history and its unparalleled collection, via paintings, sculptures, photographs, sketchbooks and more, bringing a fresh perspective to the display of Picasso’s wide-ranging oeuvre.

Women at their Toilette

Women at their Toilette

As part of the anniversary celebrations, the museum has also collaborated on Picasso Mania at the Grand Palais (until 29 February 2015). The exhibition shows the highlights of the legendary artist’s career, in an impressive Paris landmark building 

So if there is one thing to do on your visit to Paris, it’s to take a fresh look at the work of Picasso – an artist so key in the history of art that he remains as up to date and of the minute as ever.

Musée Picasso, 5 rue de Thorigny, Paris; www.museepicassoparis.fr. Grand Palais, 254/256 rue de Bercy; www.grandpalais.fr

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