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PICASSO AND AFRICA (article first published : 2005-11-11)

Standard Bank, the French Embassy and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) have announced an international cultural coup for South Africa: Picasso and Africa, an exhibition of works by the twentieth century European master, Pablo Picasso.

Picasso and Africa will be exhibited in 2006 at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg in February/March and at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town in April/May.

The exhibition is the culmination of longstanding partnerships formed between these institutions that also include AFAA (l’Association française d’action artistique), Iziko Museums of Cape Town and Air France who has been a loyal and invaluable logistical partner since 2000. Discussions to develop this ambitious project were initiated more than three years ago.

With President Mbeki and President Chirac as patrons, the exhibition has the full support of the French and South African governments and reinforces the important cultural ties between the two countries. Previous exhibitions of work by Marc Chagall (2000) and Joan Miró (2002) that were also organised by Standard Bank and IFAS have formed the foundation for this groundbreaking venture.“We are delighted once again to join these long-term partners in presenting to the South African public the most significant collaborative exhibition to date,” says Derek Cooper, Chairman of Standard Bank.

The Picasso Museum in Paris and one of its leading curators, Laurence Madeline, agreed to work with Marilyn Martin, Director of Art Collections at Iziko South African National Gallery, to conceive and develop the exhibition for South Africa.

Picasso and Africa offers, for the first time, a dialogue between Africa and Picasso and explores the influence of African art on his artistic output, in the company of classical African pieces.

Says H E Jean Felix-Paganon, Ambassador of France: “Picasso always relied on different cultural traditions which he combined in his unique work. His is a good example of the benefits of cultural diversity that France and South-Africa are promoting together.”

A major loan from the Picasso Museum is augmented by works from the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou; as well as the Picasso family and other lenders.

The exhibition has three distinct yet interrelated components:

These include more than 60 paintings, drawings and sculptures, dating from 1906 to 1972, which contain and communicate Picasso’s African inspiration. There is a selection of works that reflect the diversity and rapid changes of which he was capable. Also featured is a selection of African sculptures, similar to those with which Picasso may have been familiar. These were sourced from various South African holdings, as Picasso’s own collection is dispersed and too fragile to travel.

A prestigious book with in-depth essays by the two curators and other prominent writers, will accompany Picasso and Africa. The book will include a detailed biography, an anthology of texts on the exhibition’s theme as well as illustrations of all the exhibited works.

In addition, art education specialists for the Standard Bank Gallery and the Iziko South African National Gallery are developing an extensive workshop and educational programme, including a published resource for art educators and learners, with the support of Business and Arts SA (BASA). The programme will also cater for learners with special needs.




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