ATHENS – The exhibition Picasso and Antiquity. Line and Clay has attracted more than 20.000 visitors in only two months. The Museum of Cycladic Art’s emblematic exhibition, which was organized as part of a series of exhibitions entitled Divine Dialogues, won over both tourists and the Athenian public thanks to the unique, lively, and original dialogue between ceramics and drawings of the great Spanish artist and ancient artifacts. The exhibition runs until October 20 and, to facilitate visitors, its opening hours are extended from September 16 and onwards to Monday, Thursday, Friday 10 AM-8 PM, Wednesday, Saturday 10 AM-5 PM, Sunday 11 AM-5 PM (closed on Tuesday).
Furthermore, an extra guided tour was added on Saturday 2:30 PM (in Greek), in addition to the existing Wednesday 12:30 PM (in English), Thursday 6:30 PM (in Greek), and Sunday 12:30 and 2:30 PM (in Greek) tours.
Visitors can now purchase their ticket online at https://www.viva.gr/tickets/museum/mouseio-kykladikis-texnis/picasso-kai-arxaiotita/.
Curated by Professor Nikolaos C. Stampolidis, Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, and art historian Olivier Berggruen, this rare and original exhibition brings showcases 68 rare ceramics and drawings by Picasso, featuring birds, animals, sea creatures, humans, and mythological beasts (centaurs, the Minotaur) or inspired by ancient drama and comedies, converse thematically for the first time with 67 ancient works of art creating another Divine Dialogue between Greek antiquity and modern art.
Picasso’s compositions—ceramics and drawings created between the 1920s and 1960s—come from foreign foundations, museums, and collections, including Fundacion Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte (FABA), Musee National Picasso – Paris, Musee Picasso Antibes, Museo Picasso Μalaga, Museum Berggruen (Berlin), and private collections. The antiquities come from 15 Greek and Cypriot museums and collections, namely the National Archaeological Museum, the Archaeological Museums of the Ancient Agora, Agios Nikolaos, Chania, Chora (Messenia), Delos, Eretria, Herakleion, Marathon, Paros, Patras, Thebes, the Cyprus Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, and the Alpha Bank Numismatic Collection. They include sculptures, ceramics, and bronze artifacts dating from Prehistory (from c. 3200 BC) to the Late Roman period (to the mid-third century AD).
Among the most interesting pairs presented in this exhibition, which is organized with the support of the Musee National Picasso – Paris and the “Picasso Mediterranee” project, is the white clay Centaur with incised and slip-painted decoration, which Picasso created at Vallauris on 3 January 1953, conversing here with the unique tenth-century BC Proto-Geometric centaur figurine from Lefkandi in Euboea and a sixth-century BC Cypro-Archaic Centaur. Or Picasso’s Blind Minotaur Guided by a Little Girl by the Sea (Boisgeloup, 22 September 1934), paired with the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus on a Late Classical Red Figure calyx krater (340–330 BC) from the National Archaeological Museum or the torso of a Minotaur statue, a Roman copy of an Early Classical prototype.
Unlike his unique paintings, the great twentieth-century artist’s drawings and ceramics are little known to the wider public. These are closely related to antiquity, inspired by the Creto-Mycenaean, Greek, and ancient Mediterranean civilizations in general. This exhibition reveals a world the artist carried within himself. It showcases antiquities that he might have seen in the ancient lands of the Mediterranean, but also in European museums, in the books he read, or during his encounters with Christian Zervos and Jean Cocteau.
Throughout his long and productive career, Picasso consulted a wide variety of sources, adapting and transforming them relentlessly. The Classical tradition provided the Spanish master with a vocabulary of endless possibilities to be manipulated and modified. Prominent among these sources was ancient Greece, for it created an enduring mythology as well as a fertile iconography. From the time he copied antique plaster casts in his youth, Picasso was seduced by many themes derived from Greek mythology, drawn by their amplification of the mundane or their persistent aspiration to highlight humanity’s conflicting impulses. The Minotaur, for example, this Dionysian creature, half-beast, half-human, symbolized the dark regions of the psyche, becoming a telling symbol of the irrational forces of war.
Another, more benign vision of Greece emerged as well, one in which the ancient themes and stories lead to an idealized vision, a timeless Arcadia, which Picasso developed in sculptures and ceramics after the war. Yet, these works, unlike some earlier ones, are devoid of weighty associations with Greek myth. Rather, Picasso invented a fictitious or imagined antiquity. In the small village of Vallauris in the late 1940s and 1950s, he developed an extraordinary body of ceramics, objects that give us a vague idea of a mythical past, imbued with timeless and relevant imagery in the form of fauns, birds, musicians, etc.
A bilingual catalogue accompanies the exhibition.