Legendary art works enthralling Qatar

 07 Mar 2017 - 12:41

Legendary art works enthralling Qatar

By Raynald C Rivera | The Peninsula

The exuberance and the striking parallelism between the oeuvres of Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti, brought about by a strong bond during the long prolific careers of the two foremost figures of modern art, undeniably lends unique appeal to the “Picasso-Giacometti” exhibition; which had given the country’s art community a reason to celebrate when it recently opened at The Fire Station.

This major exhibition showcasing over a hundred works of the artists heralds, a pivotal moment in the country’s art landscape, thanks to the efforts of Qatar Museums to bring the show to Qatar in partnership with the Musee National Picasso and the Fondation Giacometti.

A product of two years of research, the well-curated show, running for three months, is a rare opportunity for every art enthusiast to embark into an intimate encounter with the two masters through their immense bodies of works, which had been inspired by each other in one way or another through countless conversations. 

Chronologically and thematically arranged, the show provides the audience an unequivocal sense of their professional and personal links and a journey into the development of their trailblasing artistic concepts and distinctive styles.

Inasmuch as the two shared friendship which lasted for a long time, there was a genuine artistic dialogue that existed between them unknown to many, according to Fondation Giacometti Director and the exhibition’s curator, Catherine Grenier.

This great friendship despite a 20-year age gap can be clearly gleaned from the spectacular array of pieces which do not only reveal startling similarities but also differences, noted Grenier.

Upon entering the Garage gallery, the visitor immediately notices the renowned self-portraits of the artists when they were of the same age. Picasso’s Self-portrait dated 1901 when he was 20 years old and the year Giacometti was born is hung adjacent to Giacometti’s Self-portrait in 1923.

Giacometti, who formally studied sculpture, departed from traditional style while taking inspiration from cubist sculptures of Picasso who in spite of not having formal training in the discipline had impressed the young Giacometti apparent in his earlier works on display which exhibit the painter-sculptor’s strong influence.

When Picasso shifted to two-dimensional ‘flat’ paintings, Giacometti applied this concept in fashioning his ‘flat sculptures’ which visitors can enjoy in a dedicated section at the gallery.

The portion on Surrealist Period teems with an array of paintings and sculptures which depict strange, deformed and illogical figures characteristic of the artistic style during the rise of this avant-garde movement in Paris. While Picasso’s oil painting Reclining Woman (1939) and Giacometti’s bronze sculpture Reclining Woman Who Dreams (1929) afford the viewer a grasp of the cultural movement as reflected in artistic production during this era, they also project how it influenced the individual artists in their stylistic and thematic choice.

Perhaps the most haunting segment of the exhibition is ‘The Living and the Dead’ which contains pieces that focus on the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death, and reveal the duo’s fascination and fear of dying. The resemblance between Giacometti’s portrait Annette (1952) and the sculpture Death’s Head in their horrifying dark eyes is, for every viewer, hard to ignore.

A section devoted to a collection of works with the women they loved posing as models is another interesting feature of the exhibition as it shows the artists’ dedication to their muse and the depth of their relationships as they attempt to capture their models’ very essence through what they do best visually.

In the final portion of the exhibition on post-war realism, the artists’ works on daily life subjects showcased are varied from paintings to sculptures to sketches, and one amusing piece here is Giacometti’s 1951 bronze sculpture The Dog modeled after Picasso’s Afghan hound. Three iconic Giacometti sculptures Walking Man II (1960), Tall Woman I (1960) and Large Head (1958) are a fitting eye-catching finale to the exhibition.

Of all the galleries in the country, The Fire Station’s Garage serves as the perfect venue for the show. First, the exhibition revolves around the concept of art as a conversation which The Fire Station upholds with the Artists in Residence programme it launched two years back. This old Civil Defence structure renovated into a new art space has been a nurturing home to homegrown artists, who- like Picasso and Giacometti- are interacting as they create artworks in studios alongside each other.

Established not long ago, The Fire Station is already taking huge strides recently launching the Paris Art Residency Program which grants Qatari artists three-month residency at Qatar’s studio in the Cite Intenationale des Arts-Paris- the largest and most important art residency in the world.  It was in Paris where Picasso and Giacometti both met and flourished in their illustrious careers. The first Qatari artist nominee for this recurring programme in its first cycle - Ibtisam Al Saffar- has cited Picasso as one of her influences when it comes to her portraits as she treads the path of abstract expressionism school.

The ‘Picasso-Giacometti’ exhibition proves what artistic dialogue can achieve in the production of artists’ bodies of works which could leave an enduring legacy to inspire generations all over the world.


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