Picasso’s greatest works of art are being brought together for a “once in a lifetime” exhibition in London and Paris that will take visitors through a pivotal year in the artist’s life.
The display, Picasso 1932, is being staged as a collaboration between the Musée National-Picasso in Paris and Tate Modern, which said it would be a landmark exhibition and “one of the most significant shows the gallery has ever staged”.
More than 100 works will be exhibited, including the famous Le Rêve (The Dream), an erotic, desire-filled painting of Picasso’s young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter which was reported to have been bought in 2013 by the collector and hedge fund manager Steven A Cohen and has never been shown in the UK.
Also being loaned is Jeune Fille Devant un Miroir (Girl Before a Mirror), a jewel in the collection of Moma in New York that rarely travels.
It will be the first solo exhibition of Picasso’s work to be held in Tate Modern.
Achim Borchardt-Hume, the gallery’s director of exhibitions and co-curator of the 2018 show, said the challenge facing curators was: “How can you get close to Picasso as an artist and a person? How can you get beyond the myth?”
Their answer was to focus on one period in Picasso’s long life. They chose 1932, a time called Picasso’s “year of wonders”.
It was a year when he cemented his superstar status as the world’s most influential living artist, producing some of his greatest works of art and staging his first retrospective, which he curated. It was also a year when his passion for Walter almost boiled over.
Picasso was 45 when, in 1927, he spotted the 17-year-old Walter as she exited a Paris Métro station. He approached her, grabbed her arm and declared: “I’m Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together.”
Picasso’s paintings of Walter are among his finest, with Le Rêve being one of the most highly regarded. For many years it was owned by the Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn who, memorably and jaw droppingly, managed to put his elbow through it shortly before completing the sale to Cohen in 2006.
The painting was successfully restored and was finally sold to Cohen in 2013 for what was reported to be the highest price a US collector has ever paid for an artwork.
Works from 1932 attract big money, with Nude, Green Leaves and Bust setting an auction record for the time when it sold for £66m in 2010. Borchardt-Hume said it was well-known in Picasso circles that works from that year were the most desired of the artist’s career.
The new show will have a number of paintings of Walter, not all of them as obviously erotic as Le Rêve, which has an erect penis as part of Walter’s face.
The show will also feature realist portraits Picasso made of his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, and their 11-year-old son Paulo. At other times in 1932 Picasso was producing atmospheric surrealist works, drawings of the crucifixion and voluptuous sculptures that he made at his newly acquired chateau and country estate at Boisgeloup, 40 miles from Paris.
The year ended traumatically when Walter fell seriously ill swimming in the river Marne, spurring Picasso to produce scenes of rescue.
Borchardt-Hume said Picasso described painting as “just another form of keeping a diary”.
“This exhibition will invite you to get close to the artist, to his ways of thinking and working, and to the tribulations of his personal life at a pivotal moment in his career.”
It would be a once in a lifetime show, he said, which had been supported by the Picasso family. “By showing stellar loans from public and private collections in the order in which they were made, this exhibition will allow a new generation to discover Picasso’s explosive energy, while surprising those who think they already know him.”
• Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy will be at the Musée National-Picasso, Paris, 10 October 2017 to 11 February 2018 and Tate Modern, London, 8 March to 9 September 2018.
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