Skip to comments.Picasso 'stole the work of African artists'
Posted on 03/12/2006 10:02:22 AM PST by wagglebee
He was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and also one of the most controversial. And now, 33 years after his death, the first significant exhibition of Pablo Picasso's work in South Africa has provoked a furious row after a senior government official accused him of stealing the work of African artists to boost his "flagging talent".
The Picasso and Africa exhibition, which has been drawing capacity crowds at Johannesburg's Standard Bank Gallery, contains 84 original works by Picasso along with 29 African sculptures similar to those in the artist's own collection, and is described as an "innovative dialogue between Picasso's work and his African inspiration".
In an extraordinary intervention, however, a spokesman for the South African Department of Arts and Culture has accused the organisers of deliberately downplaying the debt Picasso owed to African artists.
In a letter to a local newspaper, Sandile Memela, the department's head of communications, wrote: "Today the truth is on display that Picasso would not have been the renowned creative genius he was if he did not steal and re-adapt the work of 'anonymous [African] artists'."
He continued: "There seems to be some clandestine agenda that projects Picasso as someone who loved African art so much that he went out of his way to reveal it the world But all this is a whitewash he is but one of the many products of African inspiration and creativity who lacked the courage to admit its influence on his consciousness and creativity."
His letter has prompted a furious response, with one correspondent comparing his attitude to the "black fascists who were critical of Paul Simon when he collaborated with Ladysmith Black Mambazo".
Simon worked with the group on his Gracelands album in 1986 and was accused of exploiting them for commercial ends.
Picasso and Simon are not the only artists to have been accused of appropriating African art without giving full credit. Amedeo Modigliani, the Italian sculptor, was also said to have drawn inspiration from African masks.
Although Mr Memela made it clear he was writing in a personal capacity, opposition politicians said they believed he must have had clearance from the minister, Pallo Jordan. Dianne Kohler Barnard, of the Democratic Alliance, described the comments as "facile, party-line sentiments", adding: "I do not believe a spokesman for a ministry would say a thing like that without the tacit approval of the minister."
John Richardson, Picasso's friend and biographer, said the artist would have been upset by the remarks "because he honoured the sculptures and took them very seriously".
He added: "There were four artists - Picasso, Braque, Matisse and Derain - who put tribal art on the map. It was regarded as of no cultural importance but then they started buying it at junk shops and they elevated it to the same importance as Renaissance art."
Although Picasso never visited Africa, his interest in its art is well documented, from his discovery of African masks at the Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris in June 1907. Thereafter he became an avid collector of "art nègre", as it was known.
However, Picasso himself remained ambiguous on the subject, once famously declaring "L'art nègre? Connais pas" - "African art? Never heard of it".
Marilyn Martin, co-curator of the exhibition, said: "Picasso never copied anything, he never stole anything. You can see the influence but there are a combination of influences."
Mr Memela said it was crucial that the debt owed to Africa should be "splashed across the sky" in this "age of African Renaissance" - a reference to President Thabo Mbeki's call for the "rediscovery of Africa's creative past" and the rejection of colonial notions of African culture as inferior to that of the West.
Jonathan Richman was certainly wrong.
Didn't you get the memo?
Was that the UN memo or the NAALCP memo?
After his death they took all the stuff around his home and had a world tour. The 1st place the show appeaered was Seoul Korea of all places. I was fortunate enough to see it there. More recently I witnessed another very large collection of his work in South east Florida. In between at the Smithsonian, Norton in Pasadena and W. Palm Beach. Getty in Santa Monica N.Y.s met and others.Prolific isn't the word.
He didn't copy or steel. He was a genius of creativity.
Learn from others style? Yes of course but copy or steel. No way.
Al Gore stole my Internet idea. There you have it . . . I just had to get it off my chest.
Does that include slavery and mass genocide?
He is a thief!
And while we're on the subject of cultures stealing from other cultures, let me suggest that you read Shakespeare in the original Klingon. Some things just don't translate well into English.
I thought we didn't post racist articles. LOL
No, of course not. It came straight from the mothership
Well, it turns out that basically everything orginated in Africa, including the martial arts. Oh yes, it did. The Asian dudes in the audience were looking at each other like, What the ....
I guess it makes blacks feel better to 'claim' everything. Call it AlGore-itis.
And the white man stole it, don't forget that part.
Nicely played, sir.
Those concepts did come out of Africa, but it was because the white man forced them too.
< /sarcasm >
Don't forget AIDS for all!
Were so great! Whaaaa! look at us everbody! Whaaaa
Beautifully put, sir, and so I repeat it.
It is also worth noting that many of the great artists of the late 19th and 20th centuries (Picasso, Van Gogh, etc.) received a great deal of their inspiration from huge quantities of absinthe and other hallucinogens.
AH! HA!.. sooo thats why his work looks like it does..
Scratching head.. never could figure what people saw in it..
Picasso the psuedo-RAP artist.. now that expains it..
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