- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

What? Another Picasso museum? It’s a fair question. The opening last month of the new Museo Picasso in Malaga was a homecoming for the world-famous artist, because the Mediterranean city in southern Spain was his birthplace. Yet the gallery brings to six the number of institutions devoted entirely to his work.

Picasso museums also can be found in Barcelona and Madrid; Munster, Germany; St Paul de Vence, France; and — the most comprehensive of them all — Paris.

In addition, no great gallery worthy of the name is without its room or rooms of Picasso works. The Hermitage in St. Petersburg has two big halls full of his paintings.

So the question is, can there possibly be anything left to hang on the walls of the converted 16th-century Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista, which houses this latest addition to the Picasso proliferation?

As it turns out, there’s quite a bit: Picasso remained productive almost until his death at age 92. The size of his output of paintings, sculptures, engravings and drawings was vast. The new museum also has found a fresh, hitherto virtually untapped source of supply: the Picasso family.

The artist’s daughter-in-law Christine Ruiz-Picasso has contributed 133 works as the core collection, including 14 major paintings, and her son Bernard, Picasso’s grandson, has put forward 22 works.

Taken together, this is not the finest collection of the artist’s formidable output. Some of his later canvases are loose and splodgy, but the family pictures stand out. His affectionate 1923 “Portrait of Paulo in a White Cap” conveys a depth of emotion rarely seen in his later work.

Museum Director Carmen Gimenez recently told the Web site the Art Newspaper: “The strength of our collection is its family connection with the artist. There are works that Picasso chose to keep for himself or for his family.”

Gabriele Finaldi, director of conservation and research at Madrid’s Prado Museum, says the new Malaga museum is “important both for Spain and for Picasso. Many of the pictures from the family are totally unknown.”

Mr. Finaldi also describes the museum as another step in Spain’s drive to reclaim Picasso — reviled by fascist dictator Francisco Franco as “degenerate” and alienated from his native land — as a Spanish artist.

The Malaga gallery also fulfills Picasso’s own wish to have a permanent home for his work in Malaga. His grandson says the artist even chose the Buenavista palace as its ideal site. Picasso, however, swore never to set foot in Spain until the end of the Franco regime. He died in 1973, two years before the dictator.

Malaga itself also has high hopes that the museum, which has been drawing crowds since its Oct. 27 opening, will boost its own tourist trade. The town is the gateway into Spain for millions of summer tourists. The hope is that the new museum will keep them in Malaga before they dash off to the resorts of the Costa del Sol.


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