The world’s biggest collection of works by Pablo Picasso is once again set to be put on public display. The Musée Picasso Paris, situated in the Marais district, hardly needs an introduction. Its namesake is arguably the most recognizable artist of the 20th century, with an oeuvre that spans seven decades and continues to inspire and bewilder us today.

Pablo Picasso famously said, “give me a museum and I will fill it” – and did he ever! The museum’s unique collection, made possible through the generosity of the Andalucian master’s heirs and a group of benefactors, is composed of 5,000 of his works, an archive of more than 200,000 personal artefacts and the artist’s own collection of some 150 pieces by Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Henri Rousseau and others.

Over budget and behind schedule, the refurbishment of the Musée Picasso Paris hasn’t proceeded without controversy. The reopening date has been postponed several times, which sparked vociferous complaints, including some from the artist’s only living son, Claude, who felt that his Father’s heritage wasn’t being duly honoured.

The core collection is displayed inside the main building, the Hôtel Salé, which was renovated for the occasion. It enjoys the status as one of the most extravagant examples of Parisian hôtels particuliers of the 17th century, underscored by its grande escalier d’honneur. The decision to house the collection here was made in 1974, a year after the death of the artist, and this presented a particular challenge: how to respect the building’s listed portions while adding enough space to accommodate the scale of the works of art.

The museum was inaugurated in 1985 and 25 years later was once again in sore need of an overhaul. Its current incarnation, under the direction of Laurent Le Bon, the former head of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, will offer an entirely new visitor experience over five levels and links seamlessly between the historic structure and its new spaces.

The opening date coincides with the anniversary of the great artist’s birth, in Málaga, Spain on October 25, 1881. There couldn’t be a more fitting birthday tribute than to give back to Picasso his museum.

Musée Picasso Paris, 5 rue de Thorigny, Paris 3rd. Métro: Saint-Paul, Chemin-Vert, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart. Open daily 11.30am to 6pm. Weekends 9.30 am-6pm. Closed Mondays. Tel: +33 1 42 71 25 21

From France Today magazine

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