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Culture

Picasso wars - artist's son raps Paris museum's four-year closure

media The Musée Picasso in Paris Pol

Pablo Picasso’s son says France “doesn’t care about my father’s work”, as the Paris Picasso museum remains closed after nearly five years modernisation work. Claude Picasso has laid into Culture Minister Aurélie Filipetti, who in turn is reported to be in conflict with the museum boss Anne Baldassari.

The Musée Picasso, housed in a magnificent 17th-century mansion in the capital’s chic Marais district, has been closed for a major revamp since 2009, although building work only began in 2011.

But it has been struggling to meet deadlines for reopening, and the culture ministry last month said that the latest, set for June, could be put off to September.

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“The truth is there is no positive desire to open the museum,” Claude Picasso told Friday’s Le Figaro newspaper. “I’m being messed about. I have the impression that France doesn’t care about my father’s work or me.”

Claude Picasso has represented the family on the board of the museum and was named the administrator of the artist’s legacy in 1989 by a French court.

The work, which started as a plan to improve disabled access and grew into a major modernisation and extension of the buildings, was originally intended to cost 30 million euros but is now set to cost over 53 million euros.

Telling the paper that he is “scandalised and very worried” about the museum’s future, Claude Picasso called on Filipetti to do all she could to ensure that it reopens in June, claiming that the building work is over.

But the minister told him that postponement was likely because there were no attendants.

“By the way, who seriously believes that you couldn’t find attendants by June?” Claude Picasso asked the paper. “The minister only has to take the time to recruit them.”

An earlier article Le Figaro pointed out that staff needed extensive security training, particularly in the light of the 2009 theft of a sketchbook containing 33 drawings each worth about 150,000 euros.

A letter to President François Hollande has received a “vague thank you”, he says. “My last hope is [Prime Minister] Manuel Valls, whose answer I’m waiting for.”

Read also: Art exhibitions in Paris, February-September 2014

The background to the interview is a growing row between the culture ministry and museum president Anne Baldassari, who has Claude Picasso’s support although other members of the family have complained that they find her abrasive.

Baldassari, who has worked at the museum for 23 years and became its boss in 2005, is well acquainted with the 5,000 works it houses but has been criticised for her allegedly brusque management style and the amount of time she is said to spend abroad.

Earlier this year the ministry took her to task for the repeated delays and for tension among the personnel, following earlier complaints about “brutal management … threats, intimidation and public humiliation”, according to Libération newspaper.

The museum has had four general directors in four years, the paper reported.

Baldassari defended her record, pointing out that her trips abroad have been linked to 20 exhibitions of works owned by the museum, which have brought in 31 million euros.

“If the minister is annoyed with Madame Baldassari, I’m annoyed with the minister!” Claude Picasso told Le Figaro.

An exhibition of Picasso’s pottery is on show at the Ceramic museum in the Paris suburb of Sèvres until 19 May.

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