Paris’s Picasso Museum Will Show Work by Françoise Gilot in Permanent Collection Galleries for the First Time

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As part of the reinstallation of its permanent collection, the Picasso Museum in Paris will now include a gallery dedicated to the work of Françoise Gilot, highlighting how the late artist was much more than Picasso’s former partner.

In a statement, Picasso Museum president Cécile Debray said Gilot, who died in 2023 at age 101, was finally “being given her rightful place as an artist.”

The Picasso Museum’s new installation of the Hôtel Salé will look at several decades of Gilot’s artistic career, including “her close association with the Réalités nouvelles group to the great totemic compositions of the ’emblematic paintings’ of the 1980s,” according to a press release.

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Located in room 17, on the museum’s third floor, this section will also include a discussion of her best-selling 1964 memoir Life with Picasso, which presented a less than flattering view of her relationship with Picasso and which the Cubist tried to prevent from being published.

Additionally, the room will be solely focused on Gilot as an artist and not feature paintings or photos of her by Picasso or look at her as his muse. According to a museum spokesperson, this is the first time the Picasso Museum will consider Gilot in this way. The display will be on view for the next year.

Picasso museum curator Joanne Snrech told the Guardian it was important to include a display of Gilot’s paintings to dispel the idea that she was “just Picasso’s partner.”

Snrech continued, “She was an artist in her own right with a very long career during which her work evolved. What we show here is the diversity of her work. We thought it was important to show not just her place in Picasso’s life but also that she was much more than just his companion. After all, she spent just 10 years with him out of more than 100.”

Gilot met Picasso in 1943 when she was 21; he was 40 years her senior. They had two children, Claude and Paloma, together during their 10-year relationship during which time she also continued to paint. Gilot left Picasso in 1953, taking their children with her, and he did not take the break-up well.

According to the Guardian, Picasso destroyed Gilot’s possessions, including letters to her from Henri Matisse, demanded the Louise Leiris Gallery end its representation of her work, and insisted she no longer be invited to exhibit with the prestigious group of French artists Salon de Mai.

In Life with Picasso, which was written with art critic Carlton Lake, Gilot writes, “He burned all the bridges that connected me to the past I had shared with him. But in doing so he forced me to discover myself and thus to survive. I shall never cease being grateful to him for that.”

After the publication of her memoir, and the uproar it caused in France, Gilot was essentially forced to leave the country, settling in the United States by 1970. Around this time, she would meet the virologist Jonas Salk; they were married from 1970 until his death in 1995. Shortly before her death last June, a painting by Gilot, who continued making art into her final months, sold for $1.3 million at Sotheby’s in 2021.

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