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Muses’ monologues offer insight into Picasso’s character

Performances tell the stories of Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova and Marie-Thérèse Walter

27 July, 2018 — By The Xtra Diary

Colette Redgrave as Olga Khokhlova

THEY were fundamental to his success – and held the key to his personal happiness, too.

And now a West End gallery is set to celebrate the role the muses of artist Pablo Picasso played in his early life with an exhibition and a week of performances that tell the stories of Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova and Marie-Thérèse Walter.

The Gallery Different, in Percy Street, is hosting the seven-day event with three actors reading monologues written by playwright Brian McAvera.

Picasso’s Women is set to be previewed this August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before heading to the gallery in September.

Lifeblood Venus, by artist and co-curator Rebecca Fontaine-Wolf 

Gallery director Karina Phillips told Diary the monologues offered an insight into Picasso’s character, warts and all, and the accompanying all-female show was a celebration of women’s work today, which too often lacks a champion.

“This is a collaboration with theatre company White Elephant and it was the idea of actor and director Collette Redgrave to hold the show in a gallery and include works that dovetail with the performances,” she reveals.

“The three women all feature in his works and he also had romantic relationships with them. One was his first wife, the other two mistresses.”

She describes the scripts as a form of “purgatory” for the characters who give a no-holds-barred, blisteringly honest view of life alongside such a giant in the landscape of 20th-century culture.

“It certainly isn’t always flattering towards Picasso,” she adds. “But it is an honest assessment of their relationships.”

Putting together the art that goes with the show was an interesting task.

“It needed, of course, to be relevant. The obvious thing to do would have been to use some of Picasso’s work – his drawings, sketches, prints – but we felt it would be more interesting to take the theme forward,” she says.

The result is a collection that includes works that have been specifically created.

And the title of the show – Muse, Model or Mistress? which will also run from September 24 to 29 – came from a phrase used by the Cubist, French-American trail-blazer Marcel Duchamp, adds Karina.

“Exhibition titles are always a bit tricky to choose,” she says.

“I was thinking about what we could call this one when I came across an article which outlines how Duchamp once spoke to the art collector Peggy Guggenheim.

“I’d been thinking about the Surrealist movement and how so many believed it would change how women in art were considered and perhaps lead to greater equality – but actually, theywere still muses, models or mistresses. This conversation prompted Peggy to hold an exhibition in New York in 1943 called 31 Women Artists in response to this – and that exhibition inspired us today.”

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