Picasso for the Instagram era, as reimagined by Paul Smith in Paris
By Nerea Gonzalez
Paris, Mar 6 (EFE).- How to talk about Pablo Picasso in a different way for the 50th anniversary of his death? That question was posed by the Picasso Museum in Paris and British fashion designer Paul Smith was tasked with providing the answer incorporating his sense of color to reimagine the Picasso universe in the Instagram age.
Everyone is “so visual” today, with their cameras and their cellphones, and even the youngest generation, kids of eight or 10 years old, are very visual, Smith said, adding that in designing the Picasso exposition “I try to make it very visual so they can identify with it rather than (it) being like an elitist work on a white wall, which maybe makes you a bit nervous and a bit frightened.”
Smith told EFE that the exhibition’s hall with the vertical “lines” on the walls recalls the shirts turned out by the painter from Malaga, Spain.
The British fashion designer reorganized the collection held by the Picasso Museum – the largest collection of works by the artist – into 24 spaces which, respecting the chronology and orthodox themes of Picasso’s work, provide a playful look into the oeuvre of the genius who broke new artistic ground with virtually every step.
In overseeing the project, Smith contributed the colors and textures that he uses, albeit with a unique touch, to decorate the characteristic stores selling his same-named fashion lines all over the world, but he also used music and lighting to excellent effect.
One hall is dedicated to Picasso’s bullfighting works and offers an immersive experience thanks to the red walls, and the hall highlighting his melancholy Blue Period has now been carpeted so that the sound of people’s shoes does not shatter the somber atmosphere. Another hall includes works from the 1950s with background music by jazz pianist Thelonius Monk.
What many museums forget is that artists create their work so that people will buy it and enjoy it in their homes, said Smith on the eve of the opening of the exhibit to the public, and they don’t necessarily design it for museums.
The final objective, Smith said, is for people, particularly students and children, to come and “enjoy looking at Picasso,” but “instead of against a white wall, in a more creative environment.”
Smith said that he was far from being an expert on Picasso when the project was proposed to him but now he praises the artist’s versatility.
That is something with which Smith can identify – the need to keep changing to remain relevant in the hectic fashion world – but the designer does so for “commercial reasons,” he said, while Picasso did so out of pure creative hunger.
“I was always aware of him, … but what I didn’t realize was how prolific he was and how many different periods he’d gone through, like Cubism, then making the ceramics and the Blue Period, collage … and I learned a lot,” said Smith.
“I like the fact that he’s not embarrassed to say, ‘I got an influence from Cezanne for … Cubism,’ or ‘I enjoyed looking back at Manet again, or Velazquez.’ He was always very open, I think, about being interested in references from the people that he admired,” he added.
And why did they call on Paul Smith to recraft and design an exhibit for this half-century anniversary of Picasso’s passing?
“I have no idea,” Smith responded, laughing, adding that that is the question he’s been asking himself for the past four years.
“Having a look from the outside at Picasso allows people to reexamine the artist’s work, which needs – I’d say – a lighter approach,” Cecile Debray, the president of the Paris museum, told EFE.
She said that Picasso’s vast influence on art, his political commitment and his own personal pathos often hide the “humorous dimension” of his works.
Debray also said that the exhibit allows viewers to open themselves up to other debates that are valid and necessary, including the role of women in the life and work of Picasso during the present “Me too” period.
The exhibit will be open to the public from March 7 through Aug. 27 during this year’s celebration of “Picasso 1973-2023,” with a number of activities and events in Spain and France to pay tribute to the artist, and the Paris museum invites curious members of the public to bring their “questions” and their “criticism” when they visit the venue, Debray said, adding that they should also be open to enjoying an “unexpected” experience full of humor and color.