The first thing you notice is the eyes: those brooding black saucers peering out at you from a blown-up image of the Spanish artist. Because tonight, all eyes are on Picasso as the Spanish Embassy and Turespaña holds a celebratory night of food, drink, and artful tourism at Gallery by Chele.
It starts here, with a portrait artist sitting to your right as you enter the restaurant, almost like you’re wandering Picasso’s Málaga or Montmarte, Paris: watercolorist Mickey Velarde is taking iPad photos and creating personal mementos on the fly; then there’s chef Chele Gonzalez, escorting out various dishes for a Spanish feast—a large paellera topped with chunks of pastrami catches the eye.
We’re here for a celebration of Spain, naturally, and of Pablo Picasso specifically.
April 8, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the Spanish artist, so next year will mean a huge celebration of his work and his artistic legacy in France, Spain, and elsewhere. There will be multiple exhibitions, in-depth art tours and, of course, lots of food and sightseeing.
Picasso was born in Málaga, had his first studio in Barcelona, and after the war lived in Paris where he spent the rest of his life. So it’s fitting that the upcoming 2023 celebrations will be organized by the French and Spanish governments, with large-scale events through a bi-national commission, bringing together the cultural and diplomatic branches of both countries.
This has been in the works for some time. The program for Célébration Picasso 1973-2023 will be structured around some 42 exhibitions and events that, as a whole, trace a historiographical approach to Picasso’s work.
We will hear more about local events early next year, we’re sure. But for now, the table was set for new Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Miguel Utray to give opening remarks, and for chef Gonzalez to welcome the guests. “Fifty years after his death, we are still learning so much about the artist and his contributions,” the Spanish ambassador said. “He is like the man of a thousand faces: sculptor, painter, maker of ceramics, maker of set designs for Russian ballet. One cannot understand the avant-garde without following Picasso.”
Excellent food by chef Chele was stationed throughout the restaurant, washed down with Cava, red and white wines, reflecting the various Spanish destinations tied to Picasso: from Málaga, a Fritura dela Pescadito (baby squid, anchovies, and quisquillas) and Atun Curado con Gazpacho Espuma (cured tuna with gazpacho foam); from Coruña, a Pulpo alla Gallega (octopus in aioli, potato foam and crispy tapioca); and from Barcelona, two massive paellas topped with pastrami and mushrooms were wheeled out.
Spain is more than ready to get people traveling again, and an upcoming Picasso celebration in the spring months seems like an excellent lure. For instance, they have a package that includes two nights in Málaga, three nights in Barcelona, the better to explore all the great Picasso museums and paintings of these two cities.
Already set are 16 exhibitions in Spain; 12 in France; seven in the US; two in Germany; two in Switzerland; and one each in Monaco, Romania and Belgium. Some highlights:
- A symposium at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid at the end of 2022, followed by a major international symposium on Dec. 6-8, 2023 at UNESCO in Paris
- A deep dive into Picasso’s global approach to the cultural heritage of Europe, starting from his knowledge of masters such as El Greco, Goya, Velázquez, and Poussin, as well as his contemporaries Joan Miró and Julio González
- Programs exploring the artist’s need for constant evolution: his periods of formation, the year of the “great transformation” (1906), studies on the unfinished decoration of Hamilton Easter Field, and the (underrated) work of the late sixties and seventies
- The year 2023 will also be marked by the opening of the Center for Picasso Studies at the Musée national Picasso-Paris in the historic, prestigious, and renovated spaces of the Hôtel de Rohan.
- Throughout the year, multimedia systems will make the large-scale events accessible to the greatest number of people, with video “capsules” of each event produced in French, Spanish, and English, and distributed by all the partner museums.
Picasso really was the cusp of the modern, the avant-garde—he still has lessons to give on reinvention and the immortality of art. And we’re still learning.
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