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Visiting the Picasso Museum in Antibes

In his foppish early eighties pomp Adam Ant, like David Bowie before him, was the gateway “infuencer” who opened the doors for all kind of artists, musicians and authors that he was referencing. Including a name that immediately conjures up ideas of artistic greatness: Pablo Picasso, who died 50 years ago just a few miles from where I’m writing this, on the celebrated Côte d’Azur.

Artists and painters have been drawn to the Provençal south of France for generations, awed by its luminous Lavender fields, crystalline colours and bountiful sunlight. 

Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, and Van Gogh led the way, followed by Léger, Matisse, Picasso, Cocteau, and Cézanne, who originally hailed from beautiful Aix-en-Provence, just outside of Marseille. 

Growing up with a limited knowledge of fine art in Thatcher’s Britain, the one name that always stood out from that illustrious list of artpop icons for me was Pablo Picasso. Similar to seeing Bowie spelled out in print, I was drawn the name Pablo Picasso for its uniqueness, and probably for its alliteration too.

Like Van Gogh, PP had a song written about him, though, unlike Don McLean’s Vincent the homage wasn’t a single*. It was, however, something that resonated personally by being the second track of the second LP I ever owned, and it was titled Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios. 

In other words, Picasso Visits The Planet Of The Apes — one of the surrealist highlights of Prince Charming, the third and final Adam And The Ants album, the one that starts off with

See the Spaniard eating chocolates

See the Spaniard have a ball

See the Spaniard trust in no one

He’s on Quality Street

He’s on Quality Street

As the masters rot on walls

And the angels eat their grapes

I watched Picasso

Visit The Planet Of The Apes

A greatly prolific artist, the Andalusian-born figure co-founded the art movement known as cubism, and together with Matisse and Duchamp, is celebrated as one of the most important figures in the artistic revolutionary periods of the early 20th century.

During his long life Picasso created a host of diverse works: painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, engraving, and even poetry. Having been a French resident for many decades that made him ostensibly France’s adopted son, after his death following a dinner party at his Mougins estate, in the Lavender hills above Cannes on April 8, 1973, many of his works went to the Gallic state, which decided to form a museum with the collection.

I’ve yet to visit the main Musée Picasso in Paris, or the one in Barcelona, but despite being the first of the three, the Château Grimaldi on the French Riviera is, well, so-so at best.

Don’t get me wrong, the building is a stunning medieval castle from the 12th century, built upon the foundations of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis. Picasso actually lived on site for a brief period in the mid 1940s — on the edge of the beautiful Antibes old town with a pleasant terrace with views of the magnificent Mediterranean.

There are certainly some interesting works, some donated by Picasso himself including a painting entitled La Joie de Vivre, which is said to be symbolic of his time spent in Antibes and nearby Vallauris. Apparently one of the most happy periods of his life (he was in love, with a woman and with the Riviera sun) and it shows. Great setting, in a historic location on a celebrated sea front in this marvellous part of the world. 

Just don’t expect to find any of the really famous canvases that made him one of the most bankable artists in the world. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is in New York, while the classic anti-fascist statement that is Guernica — very possibly my favourite painting by anyone — is in Madrid, and is breathtakingly huge in the flesh.

What’s exhibited here is nice, absorbing, without being anything exceptional.

Still, this particular Musée Picasso is certainly worth a visit if you are in the PACA area, and at only a few Euros there are worse ways to spend an hour, hour and a half at most.

And grapes or no grapes, it’s darn sight easier to get to than the Planet Of The Apes.

Steve Pafford

*The Modern Lovers‘ Pablo Picasso was a ‘70s proto-punk stomp written by Jonathan Richman and produced by John Cale, and later covered by David Bowie, but that wasn‘t a single either. Nah.

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