The first masterpieces of the world premiere Picasso exhibition in Melbourne have been unveiled at the NGV

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“It’s, in a way, like creating a whole new museum.”

Didier Ottinger, French curator of the next world premiere of the Picasso exhibition at the NGV, speaks to Large format as the first pieces are painstakingly unveiled and hung ahead of The Picasso Century opening at NGV International on June 10.

While more than 70 masterpieces by Pablo Picasso will undoubtedly be the centerpiece of the exhibition, what makes it a world first is that they will be featured alongside. Putting the works of Picasso – and the influence of the Spanish revolutionary painter – into an artistic and cultural context will be more than 100 pieces by his contemporaries.

They will be drawn from the NGV’s own collection as well as from two French art institutions: the Musée National Picasso-Paris and the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris’ famed Center Pompidou, where Ottinger, a renowned scholar of 20th-century painting , is deputy director.

“It’s a new experience that you can’t [create] when you are dealing in a new context, in a new space, for a new audience,” says Ottinger, who is in Melbourne for the installation of the major retrospective, which took 10 years from concept to completion. “To be able to collect such important works, we had to select them and protect this list for years.”

Transporting millions of dollars worth of famous works of art from Paris was no small feat either. “We had to spread the shipments over nine planes,” he says. “For security reasons, we are not allowed to have a certain price for each shipment.”

They will be exhibited through 15 “thematic” sections, spanning Picasso’s extraordinary career – and the 20th century itself. “Today we started exhibiting works from the Cubist section,” says Ottinger. It is an artistic style pioneered by Picasso, where different views of the same subject come together, with abstract and fragmented results.

“We’re going slow now…it’ll be more stressful in the last few days,” Ottinger said. “There are 189 [works] so it can be a long, long process.

More unboxing is to come, then lighting, labeling (to make the interaction between the works clear for gallery visitors) and projection installations, which will also form an important part of the exhibition. But it’s shaping up to be the blockbuster we expected.

The Picasso Century will take place from June 10 to October 9 at the NGV International. Admission fees apply.

ngv.vic.gov.au

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