The first two acts of the Picasso year, in which 14 Spanish and as many French cultural institutions will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of the artist from Malaga, have started with the appearance of a debate that the organization of the events has preferred to ignore in its programming. After the presentation of the festivities On behalf of the French Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, and her Spanish counterpart, Miquel Iceta, it is the turn of the professor of art history, Estrella de Diego, chosen to offer the inaugural conference at the Prado Museum. "Fasten your seatbelts," the teacher warned the packed amphitheater, and whose first three rows were occupied by the gentlemen at the head of the institutions involved in the acts of 2023. "If we don't talk about this matter, it will be much more visible" , Estrella de Diego, conciliatory and resolute, has warned those present, despite the fact that they have not organized an event to discuss the context of an artist who refuses to go down in history.
The professor has enlightened the directors of museums, present there, about the relationship that new art lovers have with the work of Picasso: "My students at the university believe that there is no place for him in today's world. They want that it be withdrawn from the museums and that they lower it to the warehouses. I do not want to cancel Picasso, but Picasso must stop being what he has always been so that we can discover other Picassos", he has claimed to the experts and those responsible for the institutions to Don't dodge the discussion. "Picasso is not the painter that the 21st century wants. It is time to reread Picasso. You have to erase everything and start reading it again", she has requested in a prudent and moderate speech. Previously, Cécile Debray, president of the National Picasso Museum in Paris, had already demanded more debate and less silence on this issue.
The professor returned to her students to explain to those present that there is a conflict between generations and it must be treated urgently. "Young people don't accept it and ask for more explicit signs, why aren't we going to give it to them?" She asked those present. She has given the example of one of the engravings included in the Vollard Suite, which Picasso made between 1930 and 1937, entitled The Rape. "A violation has always been a violation, even if it has been perpetrated by Zeus," Estrella de Diego has settled.
The professor has pronounced these words in the same gallery in which the director of the Prado Museum, Miguel Falomir, in March 2021, said that "anachronism is one of the worst sins that an art historian can incur", in reference to the gender perspective applied to Titian's paintings of the rapes of Zeus. Falomir then added that they are paintings painted 400 and 500 years ago and that "we should make an effort not to transfer the values of the 21st century." The auditorium erupted in applause.
This Monday that conservative applause that reinforced Falomir's positions was repeated again in the Prado amphitheater, when a spontaneous person asked and took the floor to replicate Estrella de Diego's speech: "We moralize the concepts of art, as the 17th century did. We are creating so many rules to be politically correct that art will lose its freedom. We cannot revise the history of art. Art is the art that was created at the time," said the man, skipping the protocol, who had not planned the participation of the public. These words demonstrated the lively conflict that exists and that Estrella de Diego asks the institutions to address in order to resolve it. "We have a habit of not talking about problems and we cannot remain silent, because we cannot take Picasso down to the warehouses," Estrella de Diego had said moments before the spontaneous intervention.
This look from our days are "healthy revisions", which should not worry anyone, he insisted, because "the pieces will not lose their value". That is why he claimed this moment, this celebration of the 50th anniversary of his death, "to review the questions of an increasingly modern Picasso." The first idea that he would have to question is that of "genius", because no painter is "almighty", because they all have "their fractures". He is an exceptional artist, but the category of "genius" is too broad a set to find any concrete meaning. And yet he is a perfect exclusion machine.
De Diego is also opposed to separating his "intimate" life and his work, because his biographer Pierre Daix already prioritized his artistic evolution based on his relationship with his women. In Picasso's creative career, life and work are the same thing, John Berger tells us. In the morning, the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, warned at a press conference that "the greatness of his work overcomes other questions". Almost ninety years old, Picasso painted Lying Nude (1967), a curious version of The Origin of the World (1866), by Gustave Courbet. The model is his lover at the time, Jacqueline Roque, she lying on the divan, as the painter's object of desire. Jean Leymarie has written about Picasso that every time he changed his lover, he changed his vision, his way of painting. Possess the woman to evolve, to use and throw away. That orgiastic character started with The Women of Algiers (1955), where they offer their naked bodies.
With prudence and determination, Estrella de Diego has come to value her favorite work by Picasso, The Ladies of Avignon (1907). She assures that it is the "most problematic and enigmatic". It is the capital work of the MoMA in New York and its director, Glenn Lowry, has resolved its presence in the room by accompanying it with a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois and a canvas by the Afro-descendant painter Faith Ringgold. In this way she has counteracted the work of Picasso with a feminist and an anti-racist discourse. "It is a decisive commitment of the MoMA", has indicated Estrella de Diego in the only flash of debate on the contemporary reading of Picasso that will take place throughout 2023.