Picasso, shared and divided.
The artist and his image in East and West Germany.
Museum Ludwig – Sep 25 to Jan 30, 2022 Köln (Germany)
What do we associate with Pablo Picasso? And what associations with him did the German people have in mind during the postwar years, when he was at the height of his glory? Much more than us: it is the central idea of the exhibition, which reveals a forgotten scale, tension and productivity of these appropriations. It is not just about the artist, but his audience, who interpreted Picasso’s art in very different ways in the capitalist West and in the socialist East. The German Picasso was divided, but this division also stimulated reception. Because everyone questioned their art, he had something to say for everyone.
The exhibition presents political works. Like the painting Massacre in Korea (1951) at the Picasso Museum in Paris. These stand alongside some 150 pieces reflecting the impact of Picasso’s work. As well as a theater curtain from the Berliner Ensemble on which Bertolt Brecht had “my brother Picasso’s militant peace dove” painted.
The mystery of Picasso.
Picasso served as a figurehead and symbol for both systems and in the two German states. He was a member of the French Communist Party and supported the liberation struggles as well as the peace conferences. But he lived in the West and allowed bourgeois critics to conventionalize him as an apolitical genius, “the mystery of Picasso”. What works were shown under socialism. Which ones under capitalism? How was his work transmitted? Has the West seen only art, and the East its politics? And how did the artist see things himself? Picasso, Shared and Divided examines the image people took of Picasso’s paintings in the two Germanies. One of the targets is the Picasso collection by Peter and Irene Ludwig, which remains one of the most important to this day. When the Ludwigs made parts of it available to the GDR, they multiplied the number of works exhibited there by several.
Two new works have been commissioned for the exhibition. The exhibition architecture designed by artist Eran Schaerf connects the exhibitions without prioritizing works of art and their social use. The wooden installations, diagonal partitions and bare walls of the museum give the impression of a deliberate incompleteness. The individual exhibitions remain anchored in their context. How we make them our own remains evident. Peter Nestler’s film Picasso in Vallauris was shot in January 2020 to incorporate Picasso’s War and Peace mural in the exhibition. The film focuses on Picasso’s production as well as his political connections and connections, and it looks at the people who live in Vallauris today in that context.
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