Presenting Picasso: Diana Picasso On Documenting Family - And Her Highlights Of Sotheby's Art Impressionniste et Moderne Sale

Presenting Picasso: Diana Picasso On Documenting Family - And Her Highlights Of Sotheby's Art Impressionniste et Moderne Sale

In a new exhibition at Paris's Musée de Picasso from April 2022, art historian and curator Diana Picasso presents a multimedia immersion into her grandfather's relationship with Diana's mother as a small child, a relationship the besotted artist depicted in numerous drawings and paintings.
In this interview, she describes how she has been affected by her familial history, what she makes of the latest advancements in the art world - and walks us through her personal selection of highlights from the upcoming Art Impressionniste et Moderne, Evening Sale in Paris.
In a new exhibition at Paris's Musée de Picasso from April 2022, art historian and curator Diana Picasso presents a multimedia immersion into her grandfather's relationship with Diana's mother as a small child, a relationship the besotted artist depicted in numerous drawings and paintings.
In this interview, she describes how she has been affected by her familial history, what she makes of the latest advancements in the art world - and walks us through her personal selection of highlights from the upcoming Art Impressionniste et Moderne, Evening Sale in Paris.

A s the granddaughter of the legend, Pablo Picasso, Diana Widmaier Picasso’s familial obligations might have proved too daunting to meet. Thankfully, over her academic, authorial, auction and curatorial career, Widmaier Picasso has addressed her grandfather's legacy with thoughtfulness and meticulous research, establishing herself as a global authority on his life and works. Having studied at the Sorbonne, worked for Sotheby’s, curated exhibitions worldwide on Picasso’s bodies of work, she is also the author of a number of volumes studying various strands of the Picasso oeuvre.

This month [April 2022], Diana launches a new exhibition at the Musée Picasso in Paris, Maya Ruiz-Picasso, Daughter of Pablo. This is a multimedia exhibition that uses a variety of objects, ephemera, drawings, paintings and films, to give us a rare and precious insight into one of the artist’s most heartfelt relationships, which he had in the 1930s, with his small daughter – Diana’s mother – Maya. Here we witness how he was flooded with light and love for his small child and in assembling this show, Widmaier Picasso demonstrates her skill and judgement in curating an artistic history, a deeply personal odyssey and an artist’s creative epiphany.

To celebrate the opening of the show and to commemorate Sotheby’s Modern and Impressionist sales in May 2022, we asked Diana to share her thoughts with us on the background to the exhibition, as well as inviting her to curate a selection of works from the sale, with her unique insights and perspectives.

It must have been an emotional experience preparing this show. How has it altered your view of your mother’s relationship with her father?

The exhibition Maya Ruiz-Picasso: Daughter of Pablo at the Picasso Museum in Paris is a very personal, a very intimate show. Curating this exhibition, with Emilia Philippot, made me realize the depth of their relationship and how strong the bond that united Picasso and Maya was - and how important my mother’s presence in my grandfather’s oeuvre was. She nourished and amplified the artist’s fascination for childhood.

Through the presentation of major works from the 1930s, portraits of Maya and [Maya’s mother] Marie-Thérèse, sculptures, paper cut-outs and memorabilia such as letters, poems, and personal objects, I tried to illustrate this chapter of Picasso’s intimate history and the tenderness he felt for my mother. I hope the public will leave the show charged with emotions.

How did you gather the works and the various contextual materials – photographs, etc – in the show?

I’ve been searching for works that show Picasso’s relationship with Maya for years. I looked basically all around the world for works representing my mother, knowing that some represent her and in others it’s a projection of Picasso through Marie-Thérèse Walter, so it becomes more complex to identify her. I feel really privileged to showcase works and archives that have never been seen before as poems, family letters, clothes, hair and nails. They show a new side of Picasso’s personality: for instance he would not throw away his old clothes, hair trimmings, or fingernail clippings for fear it would mean losing part of his “essence.” I have also been able to gather the near-total collection of Maya’s painted portraits from the 30s, which is a first. They are such treasures in regards to the testimony they bring of the special love that united Picasso and Maya.

Can you tell us about François Levy-Kuentz’s film “Maya dans l’oeil de Picasso” which features in the exhibition? It’s such a lovely little film about Maya and her father…

I contacted French writer and director François Lévy-Kuentz, who specialises in films about art, to make a short movie about Maya and Picasso. There are so many archives, we couldn’t display everything in the exhibition, so I thought that a film would be the best way to explore all these materials. I want to thank Sotheby’s again for their generous support. This film sets out to reconsider an aspect of Picasso’s work in the light of this filial relationship, to show the bond between father and daughter and to show how Maya’s presence stimulated and increased the artist’s fascination with childhood. For Maya, it is a way of continuing their conversation beyond death, extending the presence of this father whose moral rights she took it upon herself to defend.

As someone who has worked across the spectrum of auctions, curating, exhibiting and maintaining your grandfather’s legacy, and numerous charitable causes - what inspires you to keep going?

Considering the current political situation, it seems important to me to protect the artists. The freedom of speech is also the freedom to create.

Are you a fan of new art tech such as NFTs and so on? How can these technologies empower and inspire a new generation of artists?

I have always been attracted by the multiplicity of art forms such as video, performance (I am on the board of trustees of MOMA Ps1 in New York and Kunst Werke in Berlin). I love artists such as Bruce Naumann or Paul Chan, who include all mediums. I am obviously intrigued by the possibilities of NFTs and I trust that some artists will find a way to navigate in what appears for now a very speculative market. It is just the beginning of a new area and I find it exciting.

Can you tell us about the catalogue raisonné you are working on at the moment detailing your grandfather’s sculptural work? It must be thrilling exploring this aspect of his practise…

Yes, since 2003, I’ve been working on a catalogue raisonné of Picasso's sculptures. It will be a crucial tool for anyone in museums or the art market. It often takes a long time, as it’s sometimes difficult to gather full information on each and every work. But in the end, you learn a lot about the creative process and it’s very exciting, especially regarding the tremendous creativity of my grandfather. It’s still being completed and when done, we’ll probably put it online too.

Pablo Picasso: Nus Masculins (Les trois âges de l'homme) (1942) 2,500,000 - 3,200,000 EUR


How did it come about?

Well, I wanted to become an auctioneer. At that time, in order to do that, one needed a degree in art history and law. So, I graduated from both. I did my thesis at the Sorbonne in Paris on the art market in France in the 17th century and then I started working at Sotheby’s London and then Paris in the Old Masters department for a few years. Perhaps, it was a way for me to establish my route. It was only around 2003 that I felt the need to be more involved in my grandfather's legacy. I grew up surrounded by his works and my mother would always tell me stories about her childhood. I suddenly felt that it was a duty for me, as well as a need to reconnect with my family’s history.

Impressionist & Modern Art

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