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West 21st Street, New York
November 10 2023–February 10 2024

Curated by Annie Cohen-Solal et Vérane Tasseau
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A Foreigner Called Picasso

Spanning the entirety of Pablo Picasso’s career in France from 1900 through 1973, the exhibition will feature loans of important works from private and public collections in the United States and Europe.

It includes early self-portraits lent by the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as Cubist and Surrealist masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. The iconic sculpture Head of Fernande (1909) will be displayed, as will Man with a Lamb (1943)—Picasso’s forceful response to the aesthetics of Arno Breker (Adolf Hitler’s favorite artist), who exhibited in occupied Paris.

The exhibition will be punctuated by the figure of the harlequin, Picasso’s allegorical avatar, which represents both a psychological self-portrait and an itinerant, performing outsider on the margin of society. Picasso depicted this archetypal figure in every stage of his career. A Foreigner Called Picasso will include several extraordinary examples from different periods, notably including the first iteration of the theme, Seated Harlequin (1901), on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Based on Cohen-Solal’s award-winning book, Un étranger nommé Picasso (Fayard, 2021; Gallimard, 2023)—published in English as Picasso the Foreigner (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023) and in Spanish as Un Extranjero Llamado Picasso (Paidós, 2023)—the exhibition will reframe our perception of Picasso and focus on his status as a permanent foreigner in France. As early as June 1901, at the time of his first show at Galerie Vollard, a file was opened on the nineteen-year-old artist by the French police, who would continue to monitor him all his life. He was stigmatized as a foreigner, an alleged anarchist, and an avant-garde artist—all labels that he seemingly ignored, but that undeniably affected his daily life and work. Beyond his considerable artistic oeuvre, Picasso proved to be a shrewd political strategist, and eventually became a significant contributor to France’s cultural modernization.

In 1955, he left Paris for the South of France, reinventing himself as a global artist and illustrious foreigner, while anchoring his work with local craftsmen and openly disputing the standards of “good taste” that held sway in the French museum world. How did Picasso navigate the multiple spheres—Spanish, French, Andalusian, Catalan, Galician, Castilian, anarchist, and communist—in which he was categorized? How did he survive the confiscation of hundreds of Cubist works seized by the French police in 1914? How did he react to the repeated rejection of his paintings from French institutions until 1947? Such are some of the questions that A Foreigner Called Picasso addresses and answers. Today, amid a global migration crisis, it is urgent to reassess Picasso’s trajectory in France. His odyssey as a foreigner and his agency as an artist are indeed powerful models for our times.

The exhibition reimagines the critically acclaimed Picasso l’étranger (Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, in partnership with the Musée national Picasso–Paris, 2021–22) which was awarded the 2022 Prix Historia for best historical exhibition in France. According to Laurent Le Bon, president of the Centre Pompidou, “Cohen-Solal’s fascinating inquiry, via history and sociology, has produced… a conceptual revolution. With the new horizons that she opens up, we see the image of a genius who was long perceived through an artistic prism only.”

A Foreigner Called Picasso will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by the curators and contributions from leading international scholars—from Picasso experts to social scientists as well as intellectuals at large—together with a symposium to further explore the important new perspectives opened by this exhibition.

The exhibition is organized as part of Picasso Celebration 1973–2023: 50 exhibitions and events to celebrate Picasso, a transnational program taking place in cultural institutions across Europe and North America to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Picasso’s death.

“Kudos to the Gagosian Gallery for doing Picasso justice. Its brave, original exhibition is a challenge to xenophobia, mediocrity, and the get-along-get-along lifestyle. It’s not lost on me that the Gagosian exhibition is a very good reincarnation of MoMA’s 1939 retrospective, which traveled to dozens of venues in the United States. It cemented Picasso’s renown in America and was, on the eve of a cataclysmic world war, a blow for artistic freedom and creative adventure.”

National Review, Feb. 2024

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