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As the Mediterranean arm of this year’s European Capital City of Culture, Valletta is hosting the first significant exhibition in Malta of the work of two major Spanish artists, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, being held in the Grand Master’s Palace; itself a shrine for priceless works of art including the world’s only intact series of Gobelin tapestries, a Caravaggio and a cycle of twelve frescoes by Mattia Perez d’Aleccio depicting the Great Siege of 1565.
Spain’s Pablo Picasso was a child prodigy mentored by his art-teacher father. Picasso was a rebel from the start of his artistic career as a co-founder of Cubism and ironically came to typify the archetypal modern artist, rich with a legendary love life. Picasso’s wide-ranging talent incorporated a dynamic career as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright. He influenced and left traces in almost every area of modern art.
Over 60 cultural institutions have come together to conjure up a programme around the Mediterranean work of Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, a 1937 representation of the Spanish Civil War, remains the quintessential modern art statement devoted to peace: Prominent in this famous anti-war painting are a gored horse, a bull, and flames. Picasso was one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. He has a worldwide reputation and his works fetch the highest prices at auction houses.
Like Picasso, the Catalan artist Joan Miró was a multi-dimensional creator as a painter, sculptor and ceramicist. Enjoying international acclaim as the designer for Spain’s national tourism identity, the first country to use a logo to represent the image of the country’s tourism industry and what it had to offer – a symbol of Spain that is still strong today; his work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind.
Joan Milo
Joan Miró’s paintings and sculptures are non-objective, colorful, biomorphic forms brilliantly evoked through rough shapes and marginally recognisable objects. Almost the anti-thesis of Picasso in terms of personality and lifestyle, Miró’s evokes a mature style evolved from the tension between his fanciful, poetic impulse and his vision of the harshness of modern life. He worked extensively in lithography and produced many murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces. In spite of his fame, Miró, an introvert, continued to devote himself exclusively to looking and creating.
The exhibition comprises a suite of 10 etchings produced by Picasso in the 1930s for the legendary art dealer, Ambrose Vollard and over 40 paintings by Miró, in a bid to explore the different possibilities which modern art offered them.
Malta’s exhibition not only tries to delve into the soul of the artists through their powerful passions, feelings and inspirations, but also demonstrates the significance of their personal universes, full of symbols, which depict their personalities. While Picasso unties the dark forces of the male obsessions and delights in female beauty, Miró instructs us in pure colours and free gestures, which represent the generosity of nature and the key to attain happiness.
This important exhibition is part of a major international project “Picasso-Méditerranée”, an initiative from Musée national Picasso-Paris, which is an international cultural event held from Spring 2017 to Spring 2019. The focus around the Mediterranean work of Picasso seeks to depict the creative journey of an artist across the places which inspired him, while seeking to strengthen ties between all the Mediterranean shores.
In parallel with the preparations for the exhibition, earlier this year Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas transformed into Spain’s Pablo Picasso for National Geographic’s Genius Series. He was spotted at The Phoenicia during filming sporting a silver coif and make-up that gave him the look and air of the Guernica painter from his 40’s onwards.

Actor Antonio Banderas celebrated the world premiere of Genius: Picasso in the artist’s hometown of Málaga in southern Spain on March 23, something both Picasso and Banderas had in common being Malagans. But a lot of the filming of Genius was in Malta, which has built a solid reputation as a film location.
The National Geographic trailer flashes through moments of Picasso’s multiple marriages and numerous affairs, along with dramatisations of his ground-breaking impact on art and culture.
Directed by Ron Howard, National Geographic’s treatment of Picasso’s life traces his development from penniless young artist to the world’s richest and most famous.
Those who worked on the film and staff at The Phoenicia all commented on how much Antonio Banderas loved being in Malta and that he was surprised at just how vibrant the film industry is here on the Maltese Islands. At the end of each long day of filming Antonio Banderas would return to his haven at The Phoenicia and said before he departed that he would like to return.
This key European City of Culture exhibition is brought to Malta by Fundación MAPFRE who believe that culture enriches people’s lives and one of its principle aims is to bring art and history closer to the public through exhibitions, courses and publications. Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (Malta’s National Trust) will be collaborating with Fundación MAPFRE and the Office of the President of Malta who is kindly making available the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta for the set-up of the exhibition ‘Picasso and Miró: The Flesh and The Spirit’ – the first of its kind to be displayed in Malta.
The exhibition is open to the public until 30 June

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