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A Picasso Museum for Every Mood (and Taste)

One of the few artists to become a household name, Pablo Picasso was nothing if not prolific. The hundreds of thousands of works he created in his lifetime are scattered throughout many public and private collections throughout the world. But Picasso holds the record for the number of museums devoted solely to his oeuvre. Three (in Paris, Barcelona, and Málaga) are devoted solely to Picasso, and others dabble.

Musée National Picasso, Paris

Many people’s choice (this writer included) for the most delightful museum in Paris, the Musée Picasso certainly wins the prize for the most beautiful structure. Housed in the 17th-century Hôtel Salé in the toney Marais, the museum has since 1985 housed the collection left to the Musées Nationaux de France by the artist himself at the time of his death. Important and well-known works from all periods of Picasso’s life are on view, including Cubist and neoclassic paintings and drawings, and the iconic bicycle-as-goat sculpture. The visitor’s experience includes a three-dimensional stroll around the 3-D works in an interior sculpture “garden.” An extra treat is the integrated design of the museum’s benches and other decorative elements by Diego Giacometti.

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Museu Picasso, Barcelona

Just when you thought that the crowded Gothic Quarter of Barcelona had no more historic structures available, the Picasso Museum adds yet another link to its maze of galleries on Calle Montcada. Now comprising five gothic buildings among its rabbit warren of interior spaces, the Museu Picasso is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Catalunya. Picasso left Barcelona at age 20, so the permanent collection is strong on his early works, and spotty after that. But an ambitious program of loan exhibitions (such as the recent “Picasso and the Circus”) keeps the installations fresh, and a new director plans to upgrade the educational functions of the museum. Picasso’s studies of Las Meninas, the Velázquez masterpiece in the Prado Museum, are a particular draw for art aficionados. And the museum shop is full of treasures, from T-shirts and postcards to serious academic volumes on Picasso and related artists.

Museo Picasso, Málaga

The newest museum devoted to Picasso gives travelers yet another reason to come to Spain’s Costa del Sol. The opening of the Museo Picasso by the King and Queen of Spain in 2003 fulfilled a desire of his family to honor Picasso in the Andalucian city of his birth. A solid permanent collection donated by the widow of Picasso’s son Paulo, Christine Ruiz-Picasso with their son Bernard, is housed in the stunningly renovated 16th-century Palacio de Buenavista in the historic center of Málaga. The 200 or so works are displayed in chronological order, according to periods marking Picasso’s development, from Blue and Rose to Cubism, etc. The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions that are often shared with the other Picasso venues in Europe.

The Casa Natal de Picasso, on Plaza de la Merced in Málaga’s historic center is not an art museum, but it holds much of interest for Picasso fans. Rented by the artist’s father from 1880 to 1883, it is the house where Picasso was born and spent the first 17 months of his life. Works on paper are on view in the lower floor galleries, along with mementos of the Picasso family’s life there, as well as works by the father, José Ruiz Blasco, an art instructor. The Pablo Ruiz Foundation and its library and archives are upstairs. A nominal fee is charged for admission to the history museum, which is run by the city of Málaga. The museum is open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sun. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 15 Plaza de la Merced.

Musée Picasso, Antibes

Closed for renovation until early next year, the Château Antibes was the first of the museums devoted to Picasso, although it houses other collections. The former Château Grimaldi was built on the site of a Roman acropolis, and it dominates the skyline of the Alpes Maritimes resort of Antibes Juan-les-Pins, just a few kilometers from Cannes. It all started with a visit to Antibes by Picasso and Francoise Gilot in 1946, when the artist decided to use part of the imposing structure as his studio. Using unusual materials like house paint, Picasso decorated parts of the castle itself and left more works to the town of Antibes following his visit. The collection grew to 245 works when Jacqueline Picasso bequeathed an important body of works to Antibes in 1990. In addition to the ceramics, paintings, and lithographs and paintings on wood and whatnot by Picasso, the chateau also houses works by Miro, Calder, and Léger. Château Grimaldi, 06600 Antibes. (04) 92-90-54-20.

Picasso Museum, Lucerne

Late works of Picasso are on view in this small museum housed in a Renaissance-style building from the 17th century. Photographs by David Douglas Duncan, who devoted much of his life to documenting Picasso’s later years, form the core of the collection, a gift of local collectors Siegfried and Angela Rosengart to the City of Lucerne. The photos are complemented by a handful of significant works by Picasso from the 1950s and 1960s. If you’re as interested in Picasso-the-Man as Picasso-the-Artist, this could be a pleasant place to spend a rainy day. Furrengasse 21, Lucerne, Switzerland. 041/410-35-33.

Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan

Love Picasso’s works in clay? If so, and you’re in Japan, take the bullet train (40 minutes from Tokyo) to the first Japanese Picasso “museum,” which opened in 1984. The galleries are actually on the grounds of the Hakone Open-Air Museum, which also features significant works by Henry Moore, Jean Dubuffet, and others. Built around a grouping of 188 ceramic pieces inherited by Maya Picasso from her father, the collection has grown since its inception and now includes a total of more than 300 drawings, prints, sculptures, prints, drawings and decorative objects by Picasso. A reconstruction of Picasso’s last studio and residence, based on photographs by David Douglas Duncan, is a highlight.

Will Shank

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