”Will you be here tonight?”. My eyes blinked. I was emerging from my thoughts; my brain was still processing the long chat I had with my interlocutor. It was a Wednesday morning and the breakfast I was having with Sofitel’s newest exposition curator, Olivier Widmaier Picasso – Pablo Picasso’s grandson – was coming to an end. “If you’re coming tonight”, he continues ” you need to check out the special menu Sofitel’s chef, Olivier Perret, created with a color specialist, Jean-Gabriel Gausse. Apparently, it’s inspired by Picasso’s color palette and different movements.” Olivier was in town to launch REVEALED – A photo exhibit that unveils great modern artists at work in an intimate angle view. Until March 27th, the 30 handpicked photo will be exposed at the Sofitel’s and is featuring a great deal of legendary artists, such as Dali, Miro, Koons and… Picasso. Let’s now start from the beginning…
…When I first saw him, earlier that morning, Olivier’s resemblance with his illustrious grand-father struck my eye. “But I’m far different from my grand-father. I didn’t inherit his artistic genuinity”, he says. Maybe not, but Olivier has this incredible power of bringing stories to life. He has a great talent of putting facts and people together. His juristic background and TV production skills resulted in two awarded films productions and two books with a familial take on his grandfather’s life. ” If there is something that I learned as a lawyer, there is no room for doubts or approximations. Every fact has to be verified and supported by written notes or a credible witness.” And a lot of assumptions has been made on Picasso’s life, after his death. He was considered either as a womanizer, multiplying conquests, or an emotional tyrant, destroying his entourage. ” After his death, a lot of articles emerged summing-up his life in few pages and lots of stories. People had the impression that everything was simultaneous. But it wasn’t. Pablo was 92 when he died, you can’t sum up a lifetime in few lines. All his stories lasted several years, sometimes decades. He was everything but a monster” Clarified Olivier.
But how do we grow up as a legend’s grandson? “When I was a kid, my grandfather was part of my universe, but I had no idea how important he is. His artwork was on our walls, and I would sometimes hear my grandmother and my mother speak about him. But that’s all about it. An 8 years old kid has other interests, and adults conversion weren’t part of them. It was the day he died that I realized how famous he was. Everyone suddenly wanted to own the character and his art – The Russians, the french, the Spanish. I also got to discover his sentimental life, I learned he had several kids with different women. I didn’t know all this. The day he died was the day he was born in my life. How ironic? “The media weren’t exactly an ally. After Picasso’s death, many press would expose the successors’ supposed juristic battle for the inheritance. ” But it wasn’t a legal dispute. Picasso always recognized his children, he would dedicate his art to them, write their names on paintings or drawings. What people mistook for a court fight were only a procedure for the children to be legally recognized. You just had to go in front of a judge, back then, instead of a notary. No one ever contested the inheritance. Jacqueline, who was his last wife and had no children with him, never opposed herself to the process nor did Claude – his first son. There was no dispute whatsoever about the inheritance”.
For every woman, an artistic movement. Or vice versa? “His art is a constant translation of his state of mind. He called them the pages of his life. He always said his art was his biography. He wasn’t an abstract painter, he always needed a model, might it be a landscape or a human being. He was always faithful to his feelings and emotions. His life was very rich; Two world wars, korean wars, many women, the politics issues in France, Spain, USA and Russia. He was sensible to women, to politics to everything that surrounded him.” In his unfaithfulness, he remained faithful to himself..
And in his humanity, he remained human. Is it why a lot of Olivier’s work is dedicated to his grandfather? To defend him or rather keep the legend more alive? ” I am actually fascinated by the man. His work is extensive, what he had done in a lifetime would be equivalent of many lifetimes and many creative minds. Later in my life, I rediscovered his art, with a more mature perspective. Sometimes, I would go to Musée de Picasso in Paris, who exposes only 2% of Picasso’s huge artwork library (which is approximately 500 art pieces), and I would leave exhausted by the flow of information and different movement I had to assimilate. Since there was already many books published about his life and his artwork, I wanted to produce something more intimate, more human and more familial. I wrote two books, produced two documentaries (one was awarded here in Montreal), but all this represents 10% only of my life. I am a lawyer and I do a lot of TV Productions. C’était la logique de mon métier, mais la logique du petit-fils.”
What accusation about him bothers you the most? ” People say Picasso thought only about himself, he never cared about the others. Completely untrue. My grand-mother took her own life, certes, but she did four years after his death. She was tired, she had money, she’s seen it all. She wanted to rest. Jacqueline (his last wife) also took her own life. After Pablo’s death, she went from living something marvelous to going back to normal. She couldn’t stand it. But Pablo wasn’t responsible for their acts. Sometimes, he did injure them, sometimes he had to take hard decisions. But they all accepted that. My grand-mother to say about him : He is wonderfully terrible. I found it significant.”
What impressed you about him, except his art? ” He was available to his people. When he would discuss with you, he would give you all the attention you deserve. He doesn’t talk much, he doesn’t like to explain his art. He’s very loyal to himself and his feelings. I admire that.
The myth you would like to refute? “That he was cheap. That he didn’t like to help people when all he did was support people. Although the relations would end, he would still support his ex-wives or lovers. He supported his family in Spain. He donated to charity. To say the contrary would be to be ignorant”.
With Sofitel, you’re revealing not only your grandfather but a whole range of iconic artists… “It’s an incredible experience. Do you know Paris Match has millions of historical photos in their archives? We had to do something like this. we picked 30 significant photos from the artists intimate life and we decided to expose them. It allowed me to discover some moments in my grand father life but also artists I admire, like Miro, Dali or Jeff Koons. And it’s really interesting to see them react to the camera. Some are comfortable in front of the lens, some are very shy and get awkward and some others play the act and exaggerate their presence. It says a lot about their universe, how they worked, whom they frequented… Life as you know it.”
… “Yes I will be there tonight.” I answered. Our coffee cups were refilled and the discussion shifted to foreign politics, France’s tensions after charlie Hebdo shooting and how Montreal embraces each one of its season. “Later today” He said ” I’ll put on the claques Stephanie offered me, and I’ll visit the city. Last time I was here was ten years ago. I was always intrigued by how both European and American this city is.” My thoughts exactly.