The Picasso Museum in Barcelona is 60 years old

09/03/2023 - 08:00 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

Founded in 1963, it was the result of the artist's friendship with Jaume Sabartés and his link with the city.

In the picture, Sabartés and Picasso at the castle of Grimaldi in 1946.

On 9 March 1963 the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, opened its doors under the name of the Sabartés Collection. It was, therefore, 60 years ago. It was located in the Palau Aguilar, at number 15 Carrer de Montcada, and was created by Picasso himself, who had strong ties with the city since he was very young, but also by Jaume Sabartés i Gual, a personal friend and secretary of the artist since 1935. In fact, in his first period, most of the works were contributed by Sabartés himself, together with some lithographs and posters, some paintings from the Museu d’Art de Catalunya, and a collection of drawings owned by Lluís Garriga i Roig. Jacqueline Picasso, the painter’s wife, also played an important role in the opening of the equipment. And it was not an easy undertaking to carry out the project: the Barcelona City Council -in those years the mayor was Josep Maria de Porcioles– had to act very discreetly, since, as is well known, Picasso and the Franco regime were on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

he 1950s were key to the museum becoming a reality. On the one hand, there was a movement of acclaim from Barcelona society towards the artist, an acclaim that was reciprocal. On the other hand, the City Council began to put the finishing touches to the agulla in order to halt the degradation of the Ribera neighbourhood. The gallery owners Joan and Miquel Gaspar and their respective wives, Elvira Farreras and Ena Alba, met Picasso through Sabartés during a visit to Cannes in November 1955. From that moment on they began an intense and good friendship, both with Picasso and Jacqueline. As a result of this relationship, several exhibitions of works by the Malaga-born artist were organised at the Sala Gaspar in Barcelona. According to Joan Gaspar, “all this excited Picasso, because it is quite certain that he was more excited about this success in Barcelona than he would have been in any other city in the world”. The artist made various donations of works to the city -as he had already done in his youth- and his creations were very much in evidence all over Barcelona.

The Barcelona notary Raimon Noguera, aware that Sabartés wanted to donate his collection of Picasso’s works to the city to create a museum dedicated to the artist, and with the support of the director of the Barcelona Art Museums, Joan Ainaud de Lasarte, led a group of people of different ideologies to present this museum project to the political authorities. Mayor Porcioles accepted the proposal and undertook to seek favourable votes from his fellow councillors. On 27 July 1960, Barcelona’s municipal council agreed to create the “Pablo Ruiz Picasso Monographic Museum” and to fit out the Berenguer d’Aguilar Palace to house the installation. This marked the beginning of the process of creating the Picasso Museum.

Sixty years after its inauguration, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona has the world’s most complete collection of the artist’s youthful works, with 4,251 works, and every year it is one of the most visited museums in Barcelona and Catalonia. Without going any further, last February almost 70,000 people visited the museum, a figure that represents an increase of 87% compared to February last year. This is the month of February with the most visitors in the Museum’s history and, exceptionally, the national public is the largest group, representing 34% of the total number of visitors, followed by American, French and Italian visitors. The Barcelona public represents 27% of the general public, a figure that shows the interest of the citizens in this museum and its programme.

Throughout its history it has undergone several extensions, and currently has 10,628 m2 distributed over five large houses or palaces on Carrer de Montcada: Palau Aguilar, Palau del Baró de Castellet, Palau Meca, Casa Mauri and Palau Finestres. The Museum, therefore, is celebrating a double anniversary: that of its 60th anniversary, and also that of the half-century since the death of the Andalusian genius.

On the occasion of this double commemoration, various activities are programmed, inside and outside the Picasso Museum, including the exhibitions Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler: Art Dealer and Publisher, Miró-Picasso (in collaboration with the Joan Miró Foundation), Bernard Plossu. Picassian landscapes and Picasso in picture. Archives of the Picasso Museum of Barcelona by PhotoEspaña. In addition, Picasso Barcelona. A Cartography, a publication that provides a global reading of the Picasso-Barcelona relationship from the territorial point of view.

There will also be shows for different audiences, family and educational activities, proposals for the elderly, the placing of totems in the city and the celebration of a parade to stimulate the commercial areas, in parallel with the actions that the Libraries of Barcelona and Catalonia will incorporate into their programmes. Other institutions that will also include Picasso in their programmes are the Filmoteca de Catalunya and the Col-legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya.

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In the picture, Sabartés and Picasso at the castle of Grimaldi in 1946.