Madrid to hold major Picasso exhibit for ‘Guernica’ anniversary

Madrid's Reina Sofia museum said on Tuesday it would stage a major Pablo Picasso exhibition to mark the 80th anniversary of his famed "Guernica" painting, a universal symbol of the cruelty of war.

Madrid to hold major Picasso exhibit for 'Guernica' anniversary

“Pity and Terror in Picasso – the Path to Guernica” will open on April 4th and last five months to celebrate the anniversary of the painting itself, as well as its arrival at the museum 25 years ago.

“Close to 150 masterpieces by the artist will be on show, coming from the (museum's) collection and that of more than 30 institutions from around the world,” the Reina Sofia said in a statement.

Works of art from the Picasso Museum and Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York or the Beyeler Foundation in Basel will be on display.

“Guernica” is one of the most well-known works by Picasso, who was born in Spain in 1881 and died in France in 1973 aged 91.   

He created it as a commission for Spain's struggling Republican government to represent the country at the 1937 World Fair in Paris.   

At the time, Spain was waist-deep in a bloody civil war pitting the Republicans against the troops of future dictator General Francisco Franco.    

The painting was inspired by the town of Guernica in the Basque Country of northern Spain, which was bombed on April 26, 1937, a spring market day, by German air forces supporting Franco in the war.

Hundreds died in what set a precedent for a new kind of wartime strategy during World War II – the aerial bombing of civilians.

The painting was transferred to Madrid in 1981 from New York's Museum of Modern Art, where it had been deposited on a long-term loan by Picasso until democracy was restored in Spain.

For fear of attack, it was initially housed behind bullet-proof glass and under armed guard at the Prado Museum in Madrid before it was eventually transferred to the nearby Reina Sofia Museum when it opened in 1992.   

The Reina Sofia, a vast former hospital, now displays “Guernica” in a purpose-built gallery on its own.

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.