Charlotte museum poised to land major Picasso exhibition, with a cost to taxpayers

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A major international art exhibition is expected to come to Charlotte in 2023, although the full price tag is more than just the cost of admission.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg County officials may jointly commit to a total of $500,000 to lure “Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds” here. It is a “very limited and special exhibit,” City Manager Marcus Jones told City Council members on Monday evening.

He did not divulge specific details, including what the city’s share would be and what the artwork entails, for the exhibition heading to the Mint Museum. Jones said he and County Manager Dena Diorio are excited about their potential collaboration and will share more information with elected officials soon.

“This is something special (that) with public investment we believe we can pull off,” Jones said.

Picasso was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century through his work in cubism, surrealism and other forms of art. A native of Spain, Picasso spent much of his life as an adult in France and died in 1973.

The Picasso exhibition appears to be slated for Charlotte from Feb. 25-May 21 in 2023, according to the American Federation of Arts website. It would then go to the Cincinnati Art Museum and Denver Art Museum.

It is “highly likely” this exhibition, featuring a number of original Picasso paintings, is coming to Charlotte, Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt told the Observer. But the City Council must ensure the public benefit is commensurate with Charlotte’s contribution, Eiselt said.

With Charlotte poised to host the limited exhibition first, Eiselt said, the city is demonstrating “we can support the arts and that we value the arts.”

This is the first exhibition that delves into Pablo Picasso’s “deep engagement with landscape subjects and his expansive approach to this traditional genre,” according to the federation’s website.

“This examination of Picasso’s landscapes highlights the artist’s attunement to tensions between humanity and nature, and to the changing countryside being reshaped by industrialization,” the federation states. “Picasso expressed this awareness throughout his landscape production, beginning early in the 20th century in Spain, where powerful forces of nature met the excitement of urban growth in his paintings of Málaga, Gósol, Horta de Ebro, and Barcelona.”

“Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds” is comprised of multiple sections — separated by phase, approach or theme — that “yield new insights into his creative production and broader involvement with the world of his time,” the federation states.

The exhibition is curated by Laurence Madeline, chief curator for French National Heritage and former curator at the Musée Picasso in Paris, according to the American Federation of Arts website.

Van Gogh in Charlotte

Mayor Vi Lyles, during the Council meeting, said there should be community engagement and educational opportunities for children to justify the investment.

Jones did not provide a timeline for a council vote on securing the exhibition.

The announcement Monday comes as Charlotte residents and visitors are still enjoying the Immersive Van Gogh exhibition at Camp North End.

Images of Vincent Van Gogh’s works — including his famous “The Starry Night” — are projected onto 500,000 cubic feet, with the images transforming as they’re accompanied by music. Picasso was influenced by Van Gogh’s landscapes, according to the federation.

Monday also marked the first day of work for Charlotte’s inaugural arts and cultural officer, Priya Sircar. The City Council created her position, and an accompanying advisory committee, this year to figure out sustainable, long-term funding streams for Charlotte’s fractured arts ecosystem.

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