Ancient Eleutherna Museum inaugurates ‘Picasso on Crete: Joy of Life’ exhibition

Ancient Eleutherna Museum inaugurates ‘Picasso on Crete: Joy of Life’ exhibition

The Museum of Ancient Eleutherna near Rethymno, Crete celebrated its 8th anniversary with the inauguration of an exhibition on Pablo Picasso that included Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, the former queen of Spain Sophia and her sister Irene, and daughter of Picasso, Paloma, among guests. 

On the mountain site of Eleutherna, the Museum hosts the exhibition “Picasso on Crete: Joy of Life”, showcasing 62 works by Picasso, curated by the excavator of Eleutherna and currently Director of the Acropolis Museum, Nikos Stambolidis, and Paloma Picasso. They were joined by the general director of the Vatican Museums Barbara Jatta, the prime minister’s wife Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis, composer Stavros Xarhakos and singer Giorgos Dalaras, who performed for the guests that came from Greece and abroad.

At the site, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary since excavations began, the works by Picasso were linked to the Museum’s permanent artifacts to celebrate the depiction of the joy of life.

Picasso had developed a special relationship with Greece’s light, spirit, and spiritual essence, President Sakellaropoulou said, and led him to abandon the distorted images influenced by World War II to incorporate figures of Greek mythology in his art, such as nymphs and satyrs, fauns and centaurs dancing. The president cited art critic Frank Elgar, who had described Picasso as “more Greek than the Greeks”, and created works that converse with one another continuously in the present moment.

Professor Stampolidis, who is responsible for creating the Archaeological Park of Eleutherna and the Museum, said that Paloma Picasso and he selected those pieces of her father’s work where nature, animals and the Mediterranean light danced in harmony with the ancient Greek myths. “We chose the Museum of Ancient Eleftherna as a site for the exhibition, within a magical archaeological space where the ancient breeze still blows and whispers secrets of the joy of life,” he said. 

Paloma Picasso said the exhibit’s purpose is tho share the directness that was characteristic of Picasso, and said the 62 works by his hands converse with 24 themes from the Museum, proving the deep influence that Greek mythology and antiquity had on her father. She also said the exhibition was dedicated to and honored her late brother Claude (who died in 2023), and hoped to convey that sense of joy and inspiration that both exprienced as children growing up in a world of imagination and reality that were linked. Claude, she said, felt very strongly about Crete and the Aegean, where he asked that his ashes be scattered.

A book related to the exhibition and to family life with Picasso is dedicated to him. On Sunday, Paloma Picasso will be signing copies of the book for visitors to the Museum of Ancient Eleutherna.


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