Something for the weekend: Revealed

11 Sep 2015
4 min read
In conversation with Olivier Widmaier Picasso, the grandson of Pablo Picasso, Kerry Spencer discusses the photographic exhibition Revealed, which celebrates the great artist and his comrades, as it lands at the Sofitel London St James this week

As a compilation of just 30 photographs curated by Olivier Widmaier Picasso, Revealed celebrates intimate images of his grandfather Pablo Picasso and other artists such as Salvador Dalí, Jeff Koons and Rene Magritte, among others, throughout the 20th century. The exhibition has so far proved a great success, having already toured North America. This week it arrived in London at the Sofitel London St James.

Where did the idea for Revealed come from?

The idea came up during a conversation. First the idea was to do something around my grandfather, Pablo Picasso, because he was very close to photographers throughout his life and he was very interested in photography himself. Then the idea of a collaboration of photographers became very interesting. I was interested in looking at other artists’ studios and the intimacy of their studios through photography—this is how we developed the idea.

The photographs capture how an artist feels and works within their studio. I told Sofitel (Sofitel is hosting the touring exhibition)that we should work with a photographic agency to compile the exhibition and we both thought that Paris Match, which has been very close to artists for decades, was probably the best place to find the perfect images.

What does the exhibition reveal?

The exhibition shows how an artist is unique. It’s very important to reveal the personality of the artist, which is also how I came up with the title of the exhibition.

Thirty photographs are being shown as part of the exhibition. How did you choose which ones to include?

It was very difficult! Along with Paris Match we first came up with about 1,000 photographs, which was too many, of course! We then narrowed the selection down to 100 pictures, but the Sofitel told us we needed to select 30 pictures to be able to fit with every hotel space. So it was a difficult moment. In the end we made a decision to keep in five pictures of my grandfather and 25 other pictures of different artists.

Which is your favourite photograph from the exhibition?

Well, of course, I have a special link with my own grandfather and the one we picked to be the promotional poster of the exhibition, taken with his good friendthe movie director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Festival de Cannes, 1956), who shot Le Mystère Picasso, is a favourite. It shows his special relationship and friendship with Clouzot.I also like the one of Francis Bacon as it reveals the difficulty and complexity of his character and I like the Jeff Koons photograph because he has this same kind of mystery.

How successful has the exhibition been so far?

The idea at first was to create this exhibition for the US only, with a tour of New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and then we added Montreal in Canada. Then, because the response was very good, we decided to bring it to Europe and soon we will take it to Asia, with Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok.

As the grandson of Pablo Picasso, would you say you’ve found it easy or in some ways more difficult to carve your own name and career?

I am very proud of my name. My grandfather left not only a name, but also an artistic patrimony. But, it has given me a lot of obligations…I have to be careful of what I say about my grandfather, his life and artwork, and this is probably why I have studied documents, biographies and exhibitions very carefully to make sure that I speak the truth about him and his work. This is probably also why I wrote the book and co-produced a TV documentary. It’s important to know that whatever I’m doing in my life, I’m always influenced by Picasso.

Do you remember the moment when you first realised the significance of your name, Picasso, and the importance of your grandfather in contemporary art?

The first time I realised the importance of my grandfather was when I saw his death announced on television on April 8 1973. I was still a child and I found it unusual to hear his name and hear about my grandfather on television like this. I knew then that he must be someone of importance and not just a painter. Then at school I was referred to as the grandson of Picasso and in the school corridors there would be whispers, I would hear: “He’s the grandson of Picasso.” So I knew I was different in that way.

How do you uphold the legacy of Picasso?

I am carrying his story, but I am not just in this project because of my name. I studied and produce television in the area of art so I have good reasons to be apart of it. I can also speak about Pablo Picasso and his character from a personal level because of the family connection: he was a free man in our 20th century world, which was not easy when he had to live through two world wars, one war in Spain, the creation of modern art and the creation of the art market.

What characteristics has the exhibition revealed to you about your grandfather?

The pictures we selected show a good combination of his character and his [exchange] with other people. For example, my grandfather did not like general conversation. He liked close relationships with people, artists, journalists, photographers, family and children. The pictures reveal this aspect of his character.

Summarise Revealed in just a few words.

Intimacy and mystery, because whatever you think you know about the person [artist] and his studio, in fact you do not know the mystery of his talent and genius.

Revealed is currently showing at Sofitel London St James until the end of October, when it will move to Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam and Sofitel Munich Bayerpost.