Most artists would be honored to have one museum dedicated to their work. But when you’re Pablo Picasso you have several, including museums in Barcelona, Malaga, Paris, and southern France. Now, reports Gareth Harris at the Art Newspaper, the artist’s stepdaughter is hoping to add a new entry, and has recently purchased a convent in Aix-En-Provence to house a museum with the largest collection of Picasso works yet.
Catherine Hutin-Blay, the daughter of Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, inherited 2,000 works by the artist after her mother died in 1986. The collection includes more than 1,000 paintings and another 1,000 works done in other mediums. According to Harris, she and her company Madame Z—named after Picasso’s nickname for Jacqueline—recently purchased the former convent Collège des Prêcheursin in Aix-en-Provence from the town council for about $14 million.
The new museum will be called the Musée Jacqueline et Pablo Picasso and will house about 1,000 artworks from her collection, most created between 1953 and 1975. The space is slated to open in 2021 and will include a 10,000-square-foot permanent collection as well as a 5,000 square-foot space for temporary exhibitions and a 200-seat auditorium. It’s estimated the museum will draw between 450,000 and 500,000 visitors per year. Picasso and Jacqueline are buried nearby at the villa where they lived their final years.
Why has it taken Hutin-Blay, now 70, so long to put her vast collection in a museum? Naomi Rea at artnet newsreports that Hutin-Blay told a French newspaper last year that she has always intended to create a home for the work, but financial barriers stood in her way. “My mother died in 1986. It took me a while to pay inheritance tax,” she says.
Janie Cohen, a Picasso expert and the director of the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont, predicts that the new space will be important for Picasso scholarship. “Most of the works have been neither previously exhibited nor published,” she tells Harris. “These are works that remained with the artist throughout his life. With the overview offered by the Musée Picasso in Paris, it strikes me as a terrific addition to have an important and overarching collection in southern France.”
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the project. Some politicians in Aix-en-Provence are concerned that an influx of 1,500 new visitors a day will stress the resources and environment of the city of 150,000.
While it will take some time to refurbish the convent and get the museum up and running, Rea reports that excited Picassophiles can get a sneak peak of the Hutin-Blay’s collection in March 2019, when the Museum Barberini in Potsdam puts a selection of the works on display, some that have never before been on view in a museum.