Picasso Shared and Divided: The Artist and His Image in East and West Germany

Septem­ber 25, 2021 – Jan­uary 30, 2022

What do we as­so­ci­ate with Pab­lo Pi­cas­so? And what as­so­ci­a­tions with him did the Ger­man peo­ple have in mind dur­ing the post-war years, when he was at the height of his fame? Far more than we do: This is the main idea of the ex­hi­bi­tion, which re­veals a for­got­ten breadth, ten­sion, and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of th­ese ap­pro­pri­a­tions. It deals not on­ly with the artist, but with his au­di­ence, which in­ter­pret­ed Pi­cas­so’s art in very dif­fer­ent ways in the cap­i­tal­ist West and in the so­cial­ist East. The Ger­man Pi­cas­so was di­vid­ed, but this di­vi­sion al­so sti­m­u­lat­ed the re­cep­tion: Be­cause ev­ery­one ques­tioned his art, it had some­thing to say for ev­ery­one.

The ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures po­lit­i­cal works, such as the paint­ing Mas­sacre in Ko­rea (1951) from the Musée Pi­cas­so in Paris. Th­ese are shown along­side some 150 ex­hibits that re­flect the im­pact of Pi­cas­so’s work: ex­hi­bi­tion views, posters, ca­t­a­logues, press re­ports, let­ters, files, films, and tele­vi­sion re­ports, as well as a the­ater cur­tain from the Ber­lin­er Ensem­ble on which Ber­tolt Brecht had “the peace dove mil­i­tant of my brother Pi­cas­so” paint­ed.

Pi­cas­so served as a fig­ure­head and sym­bol for both sys­tems and in both Ger­man states. He was a mem­ber of the French Com­mu­nist Par­ty and sup­port­ed strug­gles for lib­er­a­tion as well as peace con­fer­ences. But he lived in the West and al­lowed bour­geois crit­ics to con­ven­tio­n­al­ize him as an apo­lit­i­cal ge­nius, “the mys­tery of Pi­cas­so.” Which works were shown un­der so­cial­ism, and which un­der cap­i­tal­ism? How was his work con­veyed? Did the West see on­ly the art, and the East his politics? And how did the artist view things him­self? Pi­cas­so, Shared and Di­vid­ed ex­amines the im­age that peo­ple took from Pi­cas­so’s pic­tures in the two Ger­manys. One fo­cus is Peter and Irene Lud­wig’s Pi­cas­so col­lec­tion, which re­mains one of the largest to this day. When the Lud­wigs made parts of it avai­l­able to the GDR, they in­creased the num­ber of works on view there by sev­er­al times.

Two new works were com­mis­sioned for the ex­hi­bi­tion. The ex­hi­bi­tion ar­chi­tec­ture de­signed by the artist Er­an Schaerf links the ex­hibits with­out hi­erarchi­cal­ly struc­tur­ing art­works and their so­cial use. Woo­d­en in­s­tal­la­tions, di­ag­o­n­al par­ti­tions, and the bare mu­se­um walls con­vey the im­pres­sion of a de­lib­er­ate in­com­plete­ness. In­di­vi­d­u­al ex­hibits re­main embedd­ed in their con­text, and the way in which we ap­pro­pri­ate them re­mains evi­dent.

Peter Nestler’s film Pi­cas­so in Val­lau­ris was shot in Jan­uary 2020 to bring Pi­cas­so’s mu­ral War and Peace in­to the ex­hi­bi­tion. The film fo­cus­es on Pi­cas­so’s pro­duc­tion as well as his re­la­tion­ships and po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions, and it looks at the peo­ple who live in Val­lau­ris to­day against this back­ground.

Cu­rat­ed by Ju­lia Frie­drich

➜ An ex­tra web­site has been cre­at­ed for the Pi­cas­so ex­hi­bi­tion for in-depth study and re­search. If you are in­ter­est­ed, please con­tact in­fomu­se­um-lud­wig.de.

En­glish trans­la­tions to texts shown in the ex­hi­bi­tion

Down­load the En­glish trans­la­tions to texts shown in the ex­hi­bi­tion here. (PDF doc­u­ment)

The ex­hi­bi­tion re­ceived sub­s­tan­tial fund­ing from the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion, the Kun­st­s­tif­tung NRW, the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Sci­ence of the State of North Rhine-West­phalia, and the Kul­turs­tif­tung der Län­der. Ad­di­tio­n­al gener­ous sup­port came from the Fre­unde des Wall­raf-Richartz-Mu­se­um und des Mu­se­um Lud­wig e.V., the REWE Group, and the Bern­er Group.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is or­ganized by Mu­se­um Lud­wig with the ex­cep­tio­n­al sup­port of the Musée na­tio­n­al Pi­cas­so-Paris.