Photographs played a major role in conjuring the legend of Picasso’s dazzling and enigmatic personality. The face of the monumental artist is almost more familiar than his oeuvre. Yet despite the profusion of published photographs, the tension between Picasso’s desire to control his self-representation and the ideas and ambitions of the photographers themselves—many of whom were famous—has not heretofore been explored. This exhibition thus inquires for the first time into Picasso’s own role in the conception of these images: How effective were the strategies used by an artist who made a public display his women and his work, his charades and political viewpoints, and who selectively exploited his private life to create a cult of personality? Did the photographers manage to assert their own pictorial language and style against the dominating presence of their subject, and to what extent?
Alongside famous iconic images, the show also holds in store some surprising and never-before-published photographs of the artist. Any claim to completeness would however be both tedious and impossible; what is important instead is to address the various types of photographers and themes. These range from classic portraits of the artist in his studio to intriguing views of rooms and works from which, for example in the series by Brassaï, a precise overall picture can be formed; from snapshots on the beach to the staging of the artist’s political engagement. Who was able to maintain their independence in the face of Picasso’s need for self-fictionalization, and are some of the photographs interesting even apart from the identity of their subject?
Curator: Dr. Kerstin Stremmel
Edited by Kerstin Stremmel on behalf of Museum Ludwig, Texts by Pierre Daix, Friederike Mayröcker, Katherine Slusher, Kerstin Stremmel. Designed by: Kühle und Mozer Published by Hatje/Cantz. 272 Pages, ca. 300 Illustrations. English edition ISBN 978-3-7757-3199-7 Price: 34,90 €