Why bother visiting Paris, you might ask, as long as the Picasso Museum remains closed? Good question. But my family and I decided to go anyway, unwilling to wait another year. Our Picasso treasure hunt therefore required a little extra work, since you couldn’t very well go to just one place and be greeted by Picasso’s many persons and things. Our first Picasso sighting was just a fortunate accident–while strolling near our flat, my wife Casey spotted a wonderful, if bird-stained, bronze of Dora Maar in a small garden in the shadow of the gothic Church of St. Germain des Prés (located at its eponymous square):
This wartime sculpture (1941) was chosen by committee to honor Guillaume Apollinaire, the famous French poet and prominent member of “La Bande au Picasso” (Picasso’s wolf pack) dating from his early Bateau Lavoir days in Paris. Apollinaire had died in 1918 of a head-wound incurred in during WWI. A decade later, his widow and others anointed Picasso to create a suitable monument to honor him. The problem was that they rejected one submission after another, until finally Picasso presented them with this handsome but rather bland sculpture, at least in comparison to the more radical pieces he had previously proposed. After decades of haggling, the committee in its infinite wisdom finally accepted this portrait of Dora Maar. To provide a sense of the value of this Picasso that we randomly stumbled upon, another cast of this sculpture (there are a total of four) fetched a bit over $29M at Sotheby’s NY in 2007. The value of these pieces is presumably well known, as the bronze at St. Germain was once stolen from the site and subsequently recovered two years later. I trust it is now more firmly anchored to its limestone base….
Venturing across the river, we took in the Picassos at the Beaubourg (Centre Pompidou) and a few of the galleries on both sides. For the most part, that was it for our adventures with Picassos in Paris, other than one lovely drawing discovery that will hopefully soon be available (pending authentication by Maya or Claude). The rest of our Picasso adventures would more accurately be described as misadventures, beginning with UNESCO. Having not come even close to satisfying my thirst for Picassos, this trip we finally got around to going to the UNESCO headquarters near Napolean’s Tomb to see the huge Fall of Icarus mural:
Curiously, there were no signs of recognition on the part of a number of attendants. No one seemed to know that, at over 10 meters, one of the largest Picassos ever was on their premises. Finally, one of them delivered the news that such viewings have to be arranged in advance. It was our last day in Paris, so we were out of luck, but maybe you’d fare better with a bit of preplanning. Or just wait till the Musée Picasso reopens next year. Or see its generous loan to the de Young Museum in San Francisco this summer!