Marc Lebouc, President of Galerie de l’Institut on 'Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962'

As we approach Picasso's 50th death anniversary next year, STIR and Lebouc discuss some of the most significant pieces by the iconic artist.

by Rahul KumarPublished on : Nov 27, 2022

In the history of modern art, Pablo Picasso holds an undisputed place of being the most influential artist ever. His work and philosophies have been referenced by practitioners for several generations in the past 100 years. On the eve of the 50th death anniversary of the artist, Galerie de l’Institut recently opened a monumental exhibition on Picasso’s sculpture, bringing together some of the most important works marking a milestone in the visual artist’s career.

Head of woman, 1961, cut sheet metal, folded and painted; Bearded Man’s Head, 1961, sculpture, Pablo Picasso | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
Head of woman, 1961, cut sheet metal, folded and painted; Bearded Man’s Head, 1961, sculpture Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso

With more than 70 sculptures created between 1905 and 1962, the show is accompanied by 35 drawings and paintings. Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 is divided into two main themes, ‘the figure’ and ‘the bestiary’, aimed to cover the diversity of the sculpture artist’s engagement with creativity. The presentation allows the discovery of the first cubist sculpture in the artist’s corpus, a Woman’s Head (Fernande), as well as two cut-folded-painted sheet metal heads from 1961. The sculptural works and cubism paintings highlight the dialogue and complementarity between the different media used by Picasso.

I speak to Marc Lebouc, President of Galerie de l’Institut, who worked closely with Robert Rocca, curator, and scenographer Frédéric Beauclair for this exhibition.

Rahul Kumar: This is a monumental show with over 100 works of Picasso. How were the works sourced and how was the entire project conceived?

Marc Lebouc: I have worked with Picasso’s family for years, and recently completed an inventory of the collection for one of the Picasso heirs. As I did so, I came to the realization that many of the sculptures had never been exhibited, or had not been displayed for decades, and that it would be amazing to share them with the public for the first time.

One of the most mysterious aspects of Picasso's body of work is his sculpture. People had to wait until 1966 before they found out about a huge exhibition that displayed his sculptures. As the visitor makes their way around the exhibition, the scenography attempts to reveal to them, bit by bit, this hidden aspect of his work is unveiled. This occurs as the visitor uncovers the various works that are on display.

Standing women known as Femmes de Boisgeloup, 1930, Bronze, Pablo Picasso | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
Standing women known as Femmes de Boisgeloup, 1930, Bronze Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso

It is important to point out that the pieces that are currently being displayed in this art exhibition are works that Picasso had decided to preserve for himself, which contributes to the mystery surrounding the show.

The Owl, 1953, moulded and painted clay, Pablo Picasso | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
The Owl, 1953, moulded and painted clay Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso

Rahul: And how did you arrive at the two sections – the figure and bestiary?

Marc: The bestiary and the figure are the two themes that stand out the most in Picasso’s sculptural production; abstract sculptures are not very common among his works, thus these two topics stand out and interested the artist more. Even if Picasso did create abstract and cubist sculptures, these works only make up a small portion of the artist's overall production. That is to say, after examining his whole sculptural production in addition to the pieces that served as references, it became abundantly evident that the figure and the bestiary are the subjects that appear the most frequently. Beyond the bestiary and the figure, we are also displaying certain pieces that are less related to these themes, such as a revisited dice or Tête de femme (Fernande), which is a cubist sculpture. The exhibition is accurate to the artist’s output.

The Spanish, Cannes 1960-1961, single sheet folded, painted on both sides, Pablo Picasso | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
The Spanish, Cannes 1960-1961, single sheet folded, painted on both sides Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso

Rahul: How is the curatorial vision creating a dialogue between the three-dimensional sculptural works and two-dimensional drawings?

Marc: Picasso was a painter who wanted to represent volume, so his encounter with sculpture was inevitable, and it eventually lead him to paintings that would be as "painted sculptures," according to Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, an important art dealer who lived at the beginning of the 20th century and wrote a book on Picasso's sculptures. Kahnweiler believed in the fact that Picasso was a painter who wanted to represent density. On the other hand, the artist Julio Gonzalez was relating how Picasso once remarked that all that would be required to build a sculpture out of one of his paintings would be to chop it apart and put it back together again according to colour. This is exactly what the visitor can feel as they move through the exhibition, as we show, for example, the drawings and papercuts that led to the folded metal sculptures, or a drawing from 1908 evoking the cubist volumes that will be realized in the sculpture Tête de femme (Fernande) in 1909. This is exactly what the visitor can feel as they move through the exhibition. The artworks are placed in a way that allows them to speak to one another and facilitates the visitor's comprehension of the creative process that the artist went through.

Head of woman, Cannes 1961, cut sheet metal, folded and painted; Bearded Man’s Head, 1961, Sculpture by Pablo Picasso | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
Head of Woman, Cannes 1961, cut sheet metal, folded and painted; Bearded Man’s Head, 1961, Sculpture by Pablo Picasso Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso

Rahul: How is the exhibit sensitive to the versatility and prolific nature of the artist?

Marc: We are exhibiting all of the various facets of his sculptural work, beginning with the moulds (modelage) he used at the beginning of his career and ending with the folded metal he used at the end of his life. The pieces on display span the years 1902 to 1962. In preparation for this exhibition, we made an attempt to illustrate not just the many dimensions of the artist's artistic production but also the connections between all of his works. The sketches and sculptures have an organic conversation with one another. There were also sculptures that were made on the spot, in addition to the preparation works that were sometimes done. At the Galerie Rue de Seine, which is where we are exhibiting the bestiary, there are figures of bulls in which we can see the hand and gesture of the artist as if he sculpted the bulls in a very spontaneous and natural way.

The Cat, Paris 1941, bronze, Pablo Picasso | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
The Cat, Paris 1941, bronze Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso 2022

Picasso's last wife, Jacqueline, claims that he was constantly creating—he drew on napkins at restaurants and toyed with whatever he could get his hands on. Jacqueline also claims that Picasso was a very creative person. This would also help to explain why he chose to incorporate everyday objects into his artwork, something that we tried to visualize by using La Guenon as an example.

With this exhibition, we tried to illustrate all of this diversity by showing all of the different faces of his sculptural work, from the moulds (modelages) of the beginning to the folded metal at the end of his life, presenting works from all of the periods ranging from 1902 to 1962.

Picasso in front of Head of a woman (Dora Maar) of 1941, at La Californie in Cannes | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
Picasso in front of Head of a Woman (Dora Maar) of 1941, at La Californie in Cannes Image: Courtesy of Succession Picasso 2022

Rahul: Finally, is there an attempt made to allow viewers to experience the very thought process of Picasso?

Marc: Because some of the pieces on display are accompanied by drawings, visitors will have the opportunity to try to experience the creative process on a more intimate level by following the contemporary artist's creative process; nonetheless, we also wanted to leave room for the viewer’s interpretation. There is a drawing that Picasso created showing a couple of folded metal sheets, and the folding lines are marked in red in the drawing. In the case of Tête de woman (Fernande), in addition to the bronze sculpture, there is also a preparatory drawing as well as an inspirational one. It is accompanied by the initial sculpture that Picasso fashioned out of plaster for the Coq bronze sculpture. In this sculpture, we can see Picasso's hands moving as he sculpted it.

Marc Lebouc | Picasso. Sculptures 1902-1962 | Pablo Picasso | STIRworld
Marc Lebouc Image: Courtesy of Galerie de l’Institut

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