By Teresa of Arruda*
Pdivided icasso is an exhibition conceived by the Ludwig Museum in Cologne with the special support of the Musée National Picasso in Paris, curated by Julia Friedrich, with the purpose of reviewing the role and visibility exercised by Pablo Picasso in the two Germanys, still divided during the period of the War. Cold. More than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the recent memory and historical legacy of this country are reviewed in numerous facets, but it is in this exhibition that an icon of contemporary art is analyzed under a magnifying glass, as an example among many others, whose existences are part not only of the imaginary, but of a political and cultural legacy.
Does the exhibition address topics relevant to understanding what we associate with Picasso? And what did post-war Germans associate with him when his fame was at its height? It is not just about the artist, but his audience, who in the capitalist West and the socialist East assimilated Picasso's art in conceivably different ways. The German Picasso was a divided and fragmented art, but the division inspired communication: everyone questioned this art because it had something to say to everyone, regardless of which side of the country the admirer of his work was located.
The reception of Picasso in post-war Germany was determined by two periods: the Nazi era and the Cold War. The Nazis put an abrupt end to any involvement with Picasso's art; after 1945, modernist art underwent a thorough revision. But the Cold War forced capitalist and socialist Germany to come to their own interpretations. In the West, Picasso was praised for formal diversity and productivity. The East, on the other hand, celebrated its commitment, because from 1944 Picasso was a member of the French Communist Party. Did the Nazis usurp art? Does this mean that art now has to be exempt from political aspirations? That was the conclusion in the West. Or should art now be even more involved in the political struggle? That was the thought in the East, and also the thought of Picasso. There's no shortage of surprises either: Picasso was banned in the West. And although his work was almost never seen in the GDR – German Democratic Republic (Eastern), the debate about him was more lively there than in the FRG – Federal Republic of Germany (Western). In addition, state borders were often crossed – which is also part of the Ludwig Museum's history, as Peter and Irene Ludwig, collectors, had promising businesses in both Germanys.
The exhibition showcases political works, such as the painting massacre in korea, 1951, from the Picasso Museum in Paris. In 1955, shortly before Picasso's grand traveling retrospective of West Germany in Munich, Cologne and Hamburg, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised the exhibition's management to refrain from showing political works. This included massacre in korea, who denounced the role the US Army played in the Korean War (1950-1953). The picture was, however, exposed, but did not arouse any great discussion. At the same time, there was a struggle over Picasso in the German Democratic Republic. The RFA specialist art magazine Visual arts leveled the charge that works like massacre in korea were like caricatures and insulted the victims. The artist, according to the magazine, tended towards “formalism”. Picasso's supporters pointed out that, among other things, changes in people's perceptions in the modern era also required a change in form.
In addition to this iconic work, around 150 works can be seen in the current exhibition that reflect Picasso's production and its effect, such as exhibition photos, posters and catalogues, journalistic texts, letters, films and television reports, as well as a theater curtain from the Berlin Ensemble in which Bertolt Brecht painted “my brother Picasso’s belligerent dove of peace”. The artist was suitable as a figurehead and projection in both systems, given the different perspectives of reading. He was a member of the French Communist Party, supported liberation struggles and peace congresses. However, he lived in the West and allowed bourgeois criticism to stylize him as an apolitical genius, a “Picasso mystery”. Which works were shown under socialism and which under capitalism? How was Picasso communicated? Has the West seen Eastern art, politics? What did the artist himself experience? Picasso Divided examines the image that could be made of Picasso's images from both sides. One of the focuses is the Picasso collection by Peter and Irene Ludwig, still one of the most extensive and the basis of this exhibition conceived for the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.