Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Bits glimpsed in a final few museums

Banner on Palacio Episcopal promoting Ars Malaga exhibition of polychrome sculpture by Pedro de Mena (1628-1688)

Combining a few images from some remaining museums representing the diversity of the city’s offerings from a private 18th-century house museum containing a private Coleccion del Vidrio y Cristal to the only four-year-old impressive Coleccion del Museo Ruso showcasing works on loan from St. Petersburg in a former tobacco factory.

And there are museums with exhibits where no photographs were allowed. Several of these are dedicated to Malaga’s favorite son, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

From a white father and a small glass of water of Andalusian life was I born. Born from a mother, daughter of a daughter aged fifteen from the district of Percheles in Malaga, that beautiful bull that engendered my forehead crowned with jasmines.

Pablo Picasso, 1936

He was born in a home on Plaza Merced, now a house museum, Museo Casa Natal. Although the last time Picasso was known to visit the city of his birth was in 1901, purportedly he always held affection for Malaga. Receiving a commitment from Andalusian authorities to construct a museum, a daughter-in-law and grandson of Picasso donated work that makes up the core of the collection of the Fundacion Museo Picasso Malaga in 2009. The works are now housed in the Palacio de los Condes de Buenavista, a Renaissance building with Mudejar elements, and adjacent new construction.

The Olga Picasso exhibition there, which closed in June, was among my favorites of the trip. The exhibition pairs period paintings by Pablo Picasso paired with letters and personal photographs a grandson found in Olga’s portmanteau.

Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) was born in the Ukraine but left when she joined the Ballets Russes under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). Pablo Picasso was working on the décor and costumes for one of the ballet productions when he encountered the young dancer in Rome in 1917. They married in Paris in 1918 and had one child, Paul.

In the first years of their marriage, Olga often served as the model for his work. His increasingly unflattering depictions of her reflected the deterioration of their relationship. And, by 1927, Picasso had a new muse attract his interest, Marie-Therese Walter (1909-1977).

Picasso’s first marriage resulted in a separation in 1935, but the couple never divorced. Olga continued to follow him around with Paul in tow and wrote letters to her estranged husband almost daily. All unanswered.

 

 

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Perusing 2,000 years of art

“Dying Moments: Kicking a Man When He’s Down,” Bernardo Ferrandiz y Badenes (1835-1885), 1881

From Museum of Malaga label: This allegorical composition alludes to an episode in the artist’s life. A man of choleric temperament, he had a run-in with a fellow Academy member… which resulted in Ferrandiz being tried and sent to prison. Deeply shaken by this event, which led to his removal from the post of director of the San Telmo Fine Art School and social and personal disgrace, the once-haughty artist depicted himself as the skeleton of a cat. Only then, when the feline is “down,” so to speak, does the weakest of its sworn enemies, the mouse, dare to scurry among its remains.

Pondered how to pick a piece of art to represent a museum’s enormous collection…. Not sure why this painting by the man regarded as a founder of the Malaga School of painting was nominated, except Day of the Dead has been on my mind.

The Mister spied the painting first, perhaps drawn by the unusual printing painted directly on the frame. Somewhat illiterate in Spanish (understatement), I am label dependent. But what a great personal story – a tale of the politics of art – lurks within that frame.

The Museum of Malaga occupies the Palacio de la Aduana. The former customs house was commissioned by King Charles III (1716-1788) in 1787 in recognition of Malaga’s major role as a maritime trading center.

Two collections, one of fine arts and one of archaeology, were merged to become the Malaga Museum of Art and moved into the almost 200,000 square-foot neoclassical building in 2016. A lot to wander through and absorb, but here’s an abbreviated armchair tour.

Loved the horse “volunteering” his serum to inoculate a child in the 1900 painting by Enrique Borras. But my particular favorite is Enrique Simonet’s 1890 painting of an autopsy – “Anatomy of the Heart: And She Had a Heart.” Alas, now she has none. Seems a screen-shot from a macabre film.

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Joining the flock grazing through art at the Pompidou

Homage to Amnesty International

“Flock of Sheep,” Francois-Xavier Lalanne, 1965/1979, and “Model to the Third International,” a reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin’s 1919-1920 monument made by Les Ateliers Longepe (Chatillon) in 1979 

The remodeled port area in Malaga is pristine. Probably particularly appealing to the crowds regurgitated from cruise ships who feel comforted by the familiar upscale chains that populate the waterfront mall.

Until 2015.

The City Council of Malaga took an incredibly bold step to enter into a contract with the Pompidou Center in Paris to open its first branch outside of France – Centre Pompidou Malaga. I have no idea whether the investment is paying off, but it’s a beautiful facility that mounts major exhibitions further enhancing Malaga’s strong reputation as a city of internationally important museums.

Of course, Malaga had a head start. It is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). And you cannot take many steps through the city without bumping into a reminder of the fact.

The museum is reputed to often attract crowds packed like sardines in a tin (apologies to Frank Scurti’s sardine-tin bed above). But we totally lucked out on our timing. Could relax and graze slowly gazing at the art (apologies also to Francois-Xavier Lalanne’s “Flock of Sheep,” evidently possessing good taste).

Truly felt like visiting a miniature Parisian Pompidou. Except luxuriously private and intimate.