Pablo Picasso is a crucial figure in 20th century art. With his extensive and varied body of work, he shaped modern art like no other. From March 17 to July 21, 2013 the Kunstmuseum Basel will present an ambitious retrospective of works drawn exclusively from Basel collections. The super Picasso holdings of the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Fondation Beyeler will be exhibited together for the very first time. In addition, the show will include works from numerous private collections in Basel, some of which have never been exhibited in public and will form the perfect compliment to the institutional holdings.
Ever since the legendary „Picasso Year" of 1967, the City of Basel has had a special relationship to Picasso. At the time, Basel residents approved a municipal loan of 6 million Franks in a city-wide plebescite and in a unique fundraising action collected an additional 2.4 million Franks to secure two important paintings (Les deux frères and Arlequin assis) for the Kunstmuseum. Picasso was so touched by this democratic expression of love that he gave the city three paintings and a famous drawing for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
But Basel‘s special connections with Picasso go back much further. Even before the Second World War, art collectors such as Raoul La Roche, Rudolf Staechelin, Karl Im Obersteg and Maja Sacher-Stehlin began to build important collections in which Picasso is prominently represented. Many of these first-rank works are part of the Kunstmuseum Basel‘s collections today, or are on long-term loan there. The museum itself began to acquire its first works by Picasso for the Kupferstichkabinett in the 1920s, and has continued to expand its holdings through significant purchases of paintings since the 1950s.
After the war, Ernst Beyeler disseminated the Spaniard‘s work to Basel art enthusiasts through the exhibitions in his gallery while simultaneously building his own impressive collection. Today, the concentration of Picassos in private hands in Basel is astounding in both quantity and quality.
The unique convergence of all these holdings has created an extensive exhibition that showcases all the important periods of Picasso‘s work at the highest level. The artist‘s paintings, drawings, and prints, as well as sculptures, will be brought together on the second floor of the Kunstmuseum, which will be devoted entirely to a single show for the first time since the Van Gogh exhibit. This will enable the visitor to observe the striking interrelatedness of the works and to experience Picasso in all of his fascinating periods of artistic creation from the Blue and Rose periods, through Cubism, Neoclassicism and the surrealist-influenced work of the 1930s, to his production in the 1940s and 50s and finally in his late period.