The man, the myth, the misogynist: the many sides of Pablo Picasso’s life and work will come under the spotlight this year as institutions in Europe and the US mark the 50th anniversary of the Spanish artist’s death. Picasso’s fame and extraordinary output mean that although there is always a Picasso show on somewhere in the world (not to mention at the several museums dedicated to the artist), 2023 will see a veritable bonanza of them.
Around 50 exhibitions have been organised under the Celebration Picasso 1973-2023 umbrella, supported by the culture ministries of Spain and France. The Musée Picasso in Paris will kick off its celebrations by inviting Paul Smith, the British fashion designer, to curate an exhibition of the Spanish master’s works mixed with pieces by contemporary artists like Mickalene Thomas and Chéri Samba (7 March-6 August).
The Museo Picasso in Málaga, which is celebrating its own 20th anniversary, will be showing Picasso: Matter and Body (8 May-10 September), which will later travel to the Guggenheim Bilbao (29 September-14 January 2024). Sculpture is often seen as a secondary medium in Picasso’s career but this exhibition, curated by the Malagan museum’s first director, Carmen Giménez, will aim to show that the sculptures he made throughout his life in a variety of materials are an integral part of his oeuvre. Two smaller shows at Musée Magnelli, Musée de la céramique-Vallauris (6 May-30 October) and Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (June-September) will showcase another under-appreciated side of Picasso career: his ceramic work.
In 2018 Tate Modern, in collaboration with the Musée Picasso, focused on a single year of the artist’s career for its acclaimed exhibition, Picasso 1932. A similar approach, pinpointing a pivotal year when Picasso left behind his Rose Period for a more experimental direction, will be taken by Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid for Picasso 1906: the Turning Point (14 November-4 March 2024). New York’s Museum of Modern Art will be taking it one step further with Picasso in Fontainebleau (1 October-2 February 2024), by concentrating on just three months of the artist’s career. “Picasso’s decision to paint, virtually simultaneously, the startlingly different-looking Three Musicians and Three Women at the Spring in Fontainebleau during the summer of 1921 continues to disrupt expectations of artistic evolution and stylistic consistency,” says Anne Umland, the show’s curator. The exhibition will include preparatory paintings, drawings, etchings and never-before-seen photographs from that fruitful summer.
Museums have organised several exhibitions pairing Picasso with other artists, whether it be with those who influenced him, like El Greco (Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 13 June-17 September) and Nicolas Poussin (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, until 5 March), or contemporaries like Joan Miró (Museu Picasso, Barcelona, 19 October-25 February 2024) and Max Beckmann (Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, 17 September-
7 January 2024). The Musée du Luxembourg in Paris will also delve into the mutually influential friendship Picasso had with the American writer Gertrude Stein (13 September-28 January 2024).
Several shows will shine a light on Picasso’s contentious relationships with women. Fernande and Françoise at the Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso Münster (until 21 January) retells the story of the artist’s relationships with Fernande Olivier and Françoise Gilot, who published memoirs about their time with the artist. Both women feature in some of Picasso’s best-known works but the relationships were tumultuous and at times abusive. The Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland will examine Picasso’s artist-and-model paintings from his late career (19 February-1 May), which also “raise questions regarding the representation of women in art today”, according to the museum’s press statement. This side of Picasso’s character will be further explored by New York’s Brooklyn Museum (2 June-24 September) in a show co-curated by the Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby, which will look at Picasso’s work through a feminist lens and delve into “the interconnected issues of misogyny, masculinity, creativity and ‘genius’, particularly around a complex, mythologised figure like Picasso”, according to a museum spokesperson. It will also pair Picasso’s work with that of contemporary female artists including Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith and Ana Mendieta. Picasso’s rich and varied career will offer plenty for everyone to ponder and celebrate in 2023.