Picketing Picasso: strikes threaten to disrupt Museo Picasso Málaga’s 20 year anniversary

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The Museo Picasso Málaga will close for five days in September after the museum’s staff agreed to strike over an unresolved labour dispute that has lasted for nine months.

The strikes are currently scheduled to run from 18 to 22 September and, if conditions are not met, will likely delay the opening of the exhibition The Echo Of Picasso, one of the museum’s tentpole shows, scheduled to go on display to mark fifty years since Pablo Picasso died, in the city the artist was born.

The timing of the strike will be a source of embarrassment for the leadership of the museum. Museo Picasso Málaga is a key institution behind the international initiative Celebrating Picasso 1973-2023, which comprises 50 exhibitions of Picasso’s work in institutions across Europe and the US.

In October, the museum will also celebrate its 20th anniversary. It is currently one of the ten most visited museums in Spain, with almost 800,000 visitors per year on average.

But this year “is not turning out to be a celebration for staff at Museo Picasso Málaga”, a Works Committee representative said in a statement shared with The Art Newspaper. The staff are going on strike to “demand a fair labour agreement” and intend to picket the museum with “daily protests at the door”, they said.

The strikes are being held in the hope of “unblocking and moving forward this lengthy and unproductive negotiation with the museum,” the representative said.

“Strike action might be extended to the week of 25 September if the company stubbornly continues in its failure to respect the current labour agreement.”

The Echo of Picasso is a group exhibition curated by the French art critic Eric Troncy and explores the influence Picasso’s artistic practices continue to wield on today’s art scene, with the work of more than 30 international artists on show.

Picasso was born in the Andalusian port city, on the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain, in 1881. Museo Picasso Málaga is built a short walk from Casa Natal, a small museum built in the house where the artist was born.

His prodigious talent as an artist was evident in childhood and was nurtured by his father, José Ruiz Blasco, a painter and art teacher. Although the family relocated to A Coruña in northern Spain when Pablo was nine years old, Picasso considered himself to be an Andalusian for the rest of his life, and his early childhood paintings displayed the influence of Malaga, showing the city’s urban landscapes and capturing the everyday lives of Malaga’s residents.

Before negotiations began last autumn, the Works Committee compiled a comparative study with ten other museums including the Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga and the Museo Thyssen Madrid, the Fundación Miró and the Museu Picasso Barcelona.

“The wages and working conditions at Museo Picasso Málaga were far lower than at the other organisations,” the representative said. “We are seeking a fair labour agreement, with wage, work and social conditions in line with those of workers at other museums.”

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