What might have been one of the great Parisian cultural events of the year has turned into a pitched battle between the French state and the family of Pablo Picasso.
The artist’s son, Claude Picasso, protested angrily yesterday over the postponement of next month’s opening of the Paris Picasso museum, which owns the world’s largest collection of the painter’s works and documents.
“The truth is there is no strong desire to open this museum,” Mr Picasso said. “I have the impression that France does not give a shit about my father.”
The Picasso museum, which has 5,000 works, was closed for renovation and extension in 2009. Work on the 17th-century town house in the Marais district was completed, on schedule, this week. But the ministry of culture said yesterday that the re-opening would be delayed from 21 June until mid-September.
Officially the ministry blames difficulties in hiring museum attendants. But Le Figaro claimed yesterday that the real reason was a row over the treatment of staff between the culture minister, Aurélie Filipetti, and the director of the museum, Anne Baldassari.
An independent audit of the “work atmosphere”, conducted at the ministry’s request, concluded earlier this year that the museum was “incapable of functioning” because of “bad management” of personnel, the newspaper reported. It is strongly suspected that the culture ministry wants to force out Ms Baldassari.
Claude Picasso, 66, the chief administrator of the Picasso family’s interests, yesterday defended Ms Baldassari in Le Figaro. “Anne Baldassari has been battling for ten years to make the Picasso museum something to celebrate for visitors from all over the world. Are there so many cultural projects of this importance in France today that we can afford to sabotage the Picasso museum? Its reopening should have been an enormous joy. ”
The Picasso family has long complained that the museum has failed to make the most of its extraordinary riches. It has more than 3,000 works by Picasso, mostly from his own personal collection donated to France when he died in 1973. Two further gifts were made, in lieu of death duties, by Picasso’s heirs in 1990.
The rebuilding work has tripled the exhibition space to allow the display of more of these works, which also includes Picasso’s personal collection of paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Rousseau, Seurat and Matisse.
A selection of the best works from the museum has been “hired out” to galleries all over the world over the last three years, raising €31m (£25m) towards the €52m cost of the renovation.
Claude Picasso said he had appealed to President François Hollande but had received only a “vague reply”, and had now asked the new French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, to intervene.