abu dhabi hosts arab world’s first exhibition of picasso masterpieces - 186 works to go on show – 40 piece Arab-influenced collection exclusive to UA

Published May 25th, 2008 - 11:45 GMT

The Arab world’s first exhibition of the works of Pablo Picasso, spanning all periods and styles in the career of the 20th century’s signature artist, is to open in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, this week under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The retrospective Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, featuring 186 paintings, sculptures and drawings, will run in Gallery One of Emirates Palace from May 27 through September 4, 2008.

Abu Dhabi is the second city in a nine-nation tour of the exhibition, after the launch in Madrid’s Reina Sofía museum, and it is the only Middle Eastern venue on the tour. The UAE capital will present an exclusive exhibition differentiated by the inclusion of 40 drawings, prints and illuminated manuscripts reminiscent of the Arab influences Picasso absorbed during his youth in Málaga, La Cocina and Barcelona.

The exhibition also represents the first time that the Musée National Picasso collection has been presented in the Middle East and published in an Arabic catalogue.

The exhibition is being seen as a major stride forward in Abu Dhabi’s mounting status as an international cultural hub.


“This exceptional exhibition helps consolidate Abu Dhabi’s standing on the global cultural landscape and is another initiative in this emirate’s campaign to expand cross-border cultural dialogue,” said His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), one of Abu Dhabi’s leading developers and the name behind the emirate’s now celebrated Cultural District of Saadiyat Island, which will be home to the world’s largest concentration of premier cultural institutions. TDIC has brought the exhibition to the UAE capital in co-operation with Mubadala Development Company (Mubadala).

“The inclusion of works which have a specific Arab connotation will resonate well on a local and regional level and will fulfill an intrinsic role of reaching out to the wider community,” added Sheikh Sultan, who also chairs the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the Abu Dhabi Authority For Culture & Heritage (ADACH).

The exhibition is drawn exclusively from the singularly important holdings of the Musée National Picasso, Paris, which came directly from the artist’s studios. This exhibition traces Picasso’s career across a range of work beginning with his Blue Period Self-Portrait (1901) and concluding with Portrait of the Young Painter (1972), made only months before his death.

“This is a genuine retrospective seen through a museum collection. We have here a totally new situation, since we are able to follow Picasso’s own trajectory, his search, the development of his awareness, and his discoveries, through his paintings, sculptures and drawings. It is an experience that offers something that is both fragile and remarkable,” said Anne Baldassari, Director, Musée National Picasso, Paris and the exhibition’s curator. “They are works that he kept for himself, not simply because they were related to his family or emotional life, his development or his private life, but he kept them above all because they were the keys to his working progress. And they should always be understood in this way.”



The exhibition explores distinct periods in Picasso’s career. The first, from 1901-1909, is about the genesis of Cubism, from the Blue Period to the research around Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The second period, from 1910-1924, covers the artist’s early cubist and neo-classical works. The third, 1924-1935, includes several surrealist sculptures and the main paintings of this influential period. The fourth, from 1935-1951, places some Picasso works in the context of his preoccupation with the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Cold War, while the final period, 1947-1972, explores Picasso’s predominantly joyful post-war work.

An expansive programme of educational and public engagement initiatives has been organized to coincide with the exhibition. Designed for all age groups, the programme includes interactive activities, art workshops, illustrated lectures, guided exhibition tours, debates on Picasso and his artistic legacy, and a week-long ‘Picasso Art Club’ event.

The programme begins this week with a free-to-attend evening symposium devoted to Picasso’s work. It will be held at the Emirates Palace and will be led by Anne Baldassari and involve art historians. Those wishing to attend can register by logging on to www.artsabudhabi.com or by calling the special hotline 600 522 299.

The exhibition itself includes an audiovisual room that uses film, photographic and audio collateral from the Musée National Picasso’s incomparable Picasso Archives, while an audio guide gives visitors a rich and illuminating context for the artworks on view. The exhibition will also be supported by exhibition brochures in English and Arabic, as well as the publication of a special children’s Picasso journal. All of the materials have been written and published by the staff of the Musée National Picasso.

“The educational and community involvement segment of this all-inclusive programme is at the very crux of Abu Dhabi’s overarching cultural drive,” explained Mubarak Al Muhairi, Managing Director, TDIC and Director General, ADTA.


“In taking responsibility for delivering a global cultural hub of the scale and scope of the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island, we have also accepted responsibility for incubating an appetite for the arts on a local, national and regional scale – education, and the provision of knowledge sharing facilities is paramount in living up to this.”

Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District will be home to the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a performing arts centre and maritime museum. Each has been designed by an eminent, award-winning architect including Lord Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando respectively.

“Given that the opening of these museums is yet someway off – the first institutions to open around 2012 – it is incumbent on us to cultivate and enthuse a local and regional audience while ensuring an informed cadre of national expertise is ready and committed to seizing the career and personal development opportunities that will emerge.” added Al Muhairi.

Abu Dhabi’s cultural education programme is being forged in conjunction with some of the most reputable names in the arts world, such as the recent staging in the UAE capital of the highly successful Arts of Islam, Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection.

“Our world-class partnerships will deliver the breadth of experience required to ensure as wide an outreach as possible for audience generation and career development,” said Zaki Nusseibeh, Deputy Chairman, ADACH.

“The education programme will continue and exploratory discussions with other world-class partners are being actively progressed. Extremely positive feedback from visitors to the Arts of Islam exhibition, which attracted over 61,000 visitors in three months, has underpinned our belief that the more you satisfy people’s hunger for art, the more the appetite is honed,” added Nusseibeh.


As Abu Dhabi’s cultural education drive gains momentum, progress on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District – which is the nucleus of the emirate’s ambition to become a global cultural hub with inclusive appeal – is also gathering pace, according to Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC.

“We are currently working with Foster +Partners of the UK, under the direction of Lord Foster, to finalise, in conjunction with our stakeholders, the design for the Sheikh Zayed National Museum and are targeting a post-summer public announcement,” explained Tabler.

The economic development and new national career stream scenarios being created through Abu Dhabi’s cultural drive are being actively supported by Mubadala Development Company, which has wealth creation through economic diversification at its corporate core.

His Excellency Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chief Executive Officer of Mubadala said, “Mubadala is committed to the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy and to creating a flourishing society.  We believe that the encouragement of arts and culture is an important part of this process, which is why we are so proud to sponsor this first ever public exhibition in the Middle East of one of the 20th century’s greatest and most inspirational artists.”

Picasso Abu Dhabi: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris will be open daily from 10am-10pm. Entry is free-of-charge with visitors asked to make a discretionary donation to the ‘Arts Abu Dhabi’ cultural education programme. The exhibition will have a women’s only day every Tuesday between 10am-4pm.




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