Picasso Celebration: The Collection In A New Light!

Picasso Celebration

Go behind the scenes and learn more about the colourful, immersive new exhibition at the Musée Picasso Paris curated by Cécile Debray and Joanne Snrech under the artistic direction of Paul himself.

Share this story

image
image
image
image
Picasso Celebration
Picasso Celebration

“Every child is an artist,” Pablo Picasso famously said. “The problem is to remain an artist once they grow up.” While Paul Smith is far too humble to make comparisons between himself and Picasso – it is impossible not to see parallels in their shared childlike approach to creativity. And it’s that approach that Paul took when he was asked by the Musee Picasso in Paris to artistic direct a new immersive exhibition of the legendary artist’s work.

Five years in the making and held to mark the 50th anniversary of the artist’s passing, Picasso Celebration: The Collection In A New Light! officially opens at the Paris institution on 7 March 2023. Curated by the museum’s president Cécile Debray and Joanne Snrech, under the artistic direction of Paul himself, the exhibition is a truly unique showcase of the artist’s sweeping oeuvre – with a twist. 

FIGURE I: Portrait de Marie-Thérèse [Portrait of Marie-Thérèse], [PARIS], 6 JANUARY 1937. FIGURE II: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe: homme assis accoudé [The Luncheon on the Grass: Seated Man Leaning on his Elbow], MOUGINS, 26 AUGUST 1962; Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe: homme assis accoudé [The Luncheon on the Grass: Seated Man Leaning on his Elbow] MOUGINS, AUGUST 1962; Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe d’après Manet [The Luncheon on the Grass after Manet] VAUVENARGUES, 3 MARCH–20 AUGUST 1960

Picasso Celebration: The Collection In A New Light!

00:00

Picasso Celebrations

FIGURE III: Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le Jeune. II [Portrait of a Young Lady, after Cranach the Younger II], CANNES, 4 JULY 1958. FIGURE IV: Homme à la cheminée, [Man with Fireplace], PARIS, 1916; Portrait d’Olga dans un fauteuil [Portrait of Olga in an Armchair], MONTROUGE, SPRING 1918

Picasso Celebrations
Picasso Celebrations

“The Musée Picasso generously gave me carte blanche to offer a new interpretation,” Paul explains. “It’s a fantastic and very humbling opportunity.” The museum itself ­– which happens to be just around the corner from Paul Smith’s Paris HQ – has been a favourite of Paul’s for years and holds one of the most important collections of Picasso’s pieces in the world.

But how do you go about doing justice to one of the twentieth century’s most influential and iconic artists? Although he’s an avid collector and appreciator of things – art included – Paul has never claimed to be an expert on Picasso. Instead, he responded to the artist’s expansive body of work on a more intuitive and personal level, relating to his strong use of colour, stripes, sketching and abstract forms.

There is a humour and playfulness throughout while maintaining the upmost respect for Picasso’s unparalleled mind and work.

Paul Smith

Picasso Celebrations

“Witty and uninhibited, Paul Smith proposes unusual juxtapositions and highlights unexpected details. Through his eyes, we rediscover a Picasso who was inventive, funny and perpetually experimenting,” Cécile, the president of the Musée Picasso and curator, explains. “This lover of colour who is fascinated by the world of the spectacle and by everyday objects – a constant source of inspiration – he sees in the artist’s approach numerous echoes of his own relationship to things and images.”

Ultimately, it represents the works of Picasso as seen through Paul’s ever-curious eyes – “in a new light” as the title suggests ­– but not without a great deal of reverence for the artist himself. “The process was incredibly spontaneous, fast-paced, and instinctive. If Picasso had been alive today, I think he would’ve been curious about modern approaches to communication and presentation and that’s something I’ve tried to capture in the different rooms throughout the exhibition,” Paul says. “There is a humour and playfulness throughout while maintaining the upmost respect for Picasso’s unparalleled mind and work.”

Picasso Celebrations
Picasso Celebrations
Picasso Celebrations

FIGURE V: Paul en Arlequin, [Paul as Harlequin], PARIS, 1924. FIGURE VI: La Chèvre, [The Goat], Plaster, wicker basket, ceramic pots, palm leaf, metal, wood and cardboard, VALLAURIS, 1950; La Chèvre [The Goat], Bronze, lost-wax cast by Claude Valsuani, VALLAURIS, 1950. FIGURE VII: Selection of decorated earthenware plates, VALLAURIS, 1947-1949.

While it would be impossible to do them all justice here, there’s hardly an area of the artist’s vast oeuvre that isn’t presented in the exhibit: cubism, the blue period, sculpture, collage, portraiture, costume, ceramics, biomorphism, the theatre and fashion advertising are just some of the themes explored.

Walking in, the opening room of the museum features the artist’s iconic Bull’s Head (1942) made from a bicycle parts – it’s positioned alongside a wall of handlebars as a nod to Paul’s lifelong love of cycling. Making your way through the museum, you’ll also discover the Breton room, which stands as a tribute to Picasso’s famed marinière Breton tee. Then there’s the Bestiary, a room close to Paul’s heart, which explores Picasso’s relationship with animals – and in a typically quirky Paul fashion, is designed around a photo studio setup with a pair of goats. There’s even a room with a giant Signature Stripe rug, a custom commission by the Rug Company, one of Paul Smith’s long-standing collaborators.

Picasso Celebrations

“For obvious reasons, traditional exhibitions tend to present works in an objective way – but I wanted to fully embrace the subjective here, while remaining deferential to Picasso’s extraordinary life and legacy,” Paul says. “The rooms very much represent my interpretation of his work – and how I’ve been inspired by it throughout my career.”

On that note, it was also important to Paul, Cécile and the museum to include contemporary pieces to underline the artist’s lasting impact in the art and design world. To that end, the exhibition also highlights the work of contemporary living artists Guillermo Kuitca, Obi Okigbo, Mickalene Thomas and Chéri Samba, which are presented alongside a wealth of Picasso’s masterpieces to contextualise and, in some cases, challenge, his legacy.

 “Overwhelmingly, it’s a sense of playfulness and joy that I wanted to impart with this project. That, after all, is how I’ve always approached art and design,” Paul says. “I hope it’s something that will be enjoyed by those familiar with Picasso’s work as much as those who have never seen it before. It really is the work in a new light.”

Shop Picasso

Picasso Celebration: The Collection In A New Light! is open from 7 March – 27 August 2023 at Musée Picasso Paris. The exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of Phillips, Farrow & Ball and Natasha and François-Xavier de Mallmann.

Discover More

Stories

A Tour Of The Paul Smith Suite At Brown’s Hotel


Designed by Paul with Olga Polizzi, this new suite at one of London’s oldest and most renowned hotels celebrates the designer’s trademark use of colour and stripes as well as his unique sense of wit.

02.23

Stories

Introducing Sunseeker: A New Candle & Diffuser Scent


Discover the inspiration behind the new addition to Paul Smith’s home fragrance collection. Sunseeker is a summery scent that’ll have you dreaming of Italy.

02.23

Sign Up For Updates

Enter your email

Published: 06.03.23

Words: Molly Isabella Smith