Diana Picasso is Going for Gold with Mené
With a last name bearing the weight of art and revolutionary creativity, Diana Picasso, granddaughter of the great artist, inherits creative genius but also personal challenges. The challenge, as art curator and art expert herself, to exhibit the artistic legacy of her grandfather via new perspectives and thematic approaches. The challenge to compile the first complete scholarly inventory of Picasso’s 2,000 sculptures. And, finally, the challenge to distance herself from the family legacy and also make her own history… in the jewelry world with her new jewelry brand Mené.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine.
“I LOVE PERFORMING ART. I AM ON THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF MOMA PS1 IN NY AND KW IN BERLIN. I AM ALSO VERY INVOLVED WITH THE MET IN NEW YORK” – DIANA PICASSO
Q: Picasso. A legacy condensed in a last name, a legacy that determined and inspired your life and career. How does it feel to be influenced and connected to a family member and yet, never met him? Aside from the legacy contained in his art, what are the personal memories and knowledge you have of him in a family context?
A: My mother Maya, Marie-Thérèse’s daughter, shared many stories from her childhood with me. We also have many photographs in our family archives documenting these events. I just curated an exhibition about my mother, Picasso and Maya: Father and daughter at Gagosian gallery in Paris (October 18, 2017 – February 24, 2018). It was an occasion to present portraits of Maya by her father, but also unpublished photographs by Edward Quinn exploring the relationship between father and daughter, while providing an invaluable testimony of their happiness.A:
Q: You are an art historian and art curator. Do you also make any kind of art? Have you ever tried?
A: I like to write and I also play the piano. I trained to do copies after old masters when I was a teenager. I made many copies of my favorite painters from the Renaissance at the Louvre (Antonello da Messina, Piero di Cosimo, Andrea Del Sarto…). I enjoy very much the exercise. It is like a meditation as you enter a spiritual dialogue with your ancestors.
Q: You spent more than ten years compiling the first complete scholarly inventory of your grandfather’s 2,000 sculptures. What has driven you to take on this challenge? Is the project complete? What is or will be the use of it?
A: A catalogue raisonné of an artist (therefore a comprehensive catalogue) is a crucial tool for anyone in museums or for the art market. It often takes a long time as it is difficult to trace every information on a work. In the end, you learn a lot about the creative process and it is very exciting. The project will probably be on-line and it still being completed.
Q: Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour fou was a remarkable exhibition you curated about the great love between your grandfather and grand- mother as well as towards your mother. What did such show mean to you? Was also a personal journey and discovery?
A: The show was very intimate. It made you realize that there were portraits of a passionate love story and it got everyone very emotional while being in the rooms.
It is also a period of great renew in many mediums for my grandfather. For instance, he created monumental heads and busts of Marie-Thérèse. Picasso produced more sculptures during the years 1931-1934 than in any other period of his life. It was an uplifting journey for me.
Q: You wrote the book Picasso: Art Can Only Be Erotic. In this regard, Picas- so was able to convey the highest level of eroticism with paintings that were abstract or in any case not realistic. Is eroticism mainly a fantasy therefore realism is the antithesis of eroticism?
A: Lots of Marie-Thérèse portraits are erotic paintings. In 1932, the public discovered nineteen sensational portraits of his muse almost always naked during the great retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit. He also depicted their passionate relationship through the Suite Vollard in a particularly realistic way.
Q: What is your favorite of Picasso’s work and why?
A: It always changes. At the moment, it is a bronze sculpture I just bought dated from 1943. One does not know if it is abstract or not. It could be a skull or it can be a heart. I hold it in my hands as a heart. I love it because it is also so timeless.
Q: What do you think your grandfather would think of the contemporary, visual (fine) art of today? Would he be embracing the video, multimedia technology himself?
A: I think he would be as always a tough critic, but would be impressed by the possibilities of new technologies. Of course! I just saw the Bruce Nauman’s retrospective in Basel at Schaulager and you realize how playful an artist can be exposed to the medium of video. I also love the work of Paul Chan and Tacita Dean. They both use all mediums and new technologies. It is very inspiring. I remember discovering that work by Jordan Wolfson, a sexy female robot dancing in front of a mirror in Basel. You would be alone in a room and the robot seemed more lively than life. It was very disturbing when she was looking at you in the eyes. I loved the experience. Maybe I was facing the future.
Q: And from art to jewelry: what brought to found Mené? Why jewelry?
A: I met Roy Sebag in 2017. It is thanks to him and our friendship that I embarked on this great adventure.
Q: Do you perceive any connection between art and jewel handicraft?
A: Very much so. It is a natural prolongation as all civilizations have displayed their strengths to produce magnificent end ornaments. I am very inspired by Archeology, Greek and Egyptian art.
Q: In Mené’s mission statement and website, your product-key feature is guaranteeing ’24-karat purity.’ There is also a short film of the brand entitled Radical Transparency. Can you enlighten us about these concepts that distinguish Mené’s jewelry?
A: Mené is not just a brand, it is a concept. We are offering precious metal in the shape of a jewelry. Most jewelry these days are not 24K gold or pure platinum. We want our customers to enjoy the feeling of wearing a pure material. As you know, 24k gold confers all kind of values including being an antibacterial. Egyptians would bury themselves in the pyramids surrounded by gold because they believed in its immortal power. Our price is transparent; it means that the jewelry is sold by weight according to the metal value of the day and the design fee is very low (15 to 20%). One can always sell it back to our company who will buy it or transform it into another piece of jewelry if you prefer. That’s why we call it «Mené / Investment Jewelry». Hopefully, our customers will keep it and pass it on to the next generation. That would certainly be our greatest achievement.
Q: Do you vest solely a business role in the company or do you have a saying also in the creative/design team?
A: As the CAO, I am the head of the creative team. I work closely with everyone and, in particular, with our creative director and friend Sunjoo Moon.
Q: Will the Mené’s business take you away from the art scene and art-related work or you will be dedicated to both?
A: Both are now part of my life but it intertwines.
Q: You studied Law before Art History. If you were initially considering the legal career, what made you take the turn and switch to art?
A: I wanted to become an auctioneer and both degrees were required at the time. I find Law a very interesting field and it now has grown immensely. Instead of becoming an auctioneer, I worked at Sotheby’s London and Paris in the Old Master department for a few years.
Q: The proverb says, “Only lawyers and painters can turn white to black.” What would you comment about that?
A: It is the best and most profound experience to view a thing from different angles. For me, it is like a modern sculpture and a way to make the truth vibrate and resonate in different ways.
Q: Looking back, do you feel it was something inevitable, like part of your DNA?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Q: Are you working on any art project at the moment?
A: We are developing a whole series of new charms. That is so exciting. I am also curating a show about Picasso Sculptures in Rome at Villa Borghese opening in October (Picasso Scultore. Incontro con la Galleria Borghese).
Q: What is your view about contemporary art? What about performance art?
A: I love performing art. I am on the board of trustees of Moma Ps1 in NY and KW in Berlin. I am also very involved with the Met in New York which is, as you know, enlarging its contemporary art collection. I think there are some amazing artists today. Our world raises new issues and art is also about raising awareness.
Q: Could you name a few contemporary artists and the reason why you appreciate their art?
A: Taryn Simon, Maria Lassnig, Louise Bourgeois, Annette Messager, etc. Since I became a mother, I have become more and more interested in subconscious message female artists can thrive into their work. I also love Henry Taylor, Kerry James Marshall and also John Baldassari, Rachel Whiteread and Jean-Luc Moulène. There are so many! I just bought a sculpture by him. It represents a boot made with a condom blown like a balloon and solidified with wax.
It is so bizarre.
Q: You are involved in different non-profit organizations. Do you believe art should bear a social message, or is the art bearing a social message better than the art that does not?
A: It is the intention that counts. If the intention is authentic, then it is often great art. I love the work of Arthur Jafa. He is a messenger and his work is breathtaking. I remember discovering his video about Martin Luther King and against racism one day at Gavin Brown’s Gallery. I was in complete admiration and in tears.
Q: One of those silly what-ifs whose answer we still love to hear: if you had an opportunity to meet your grandfather and could only ask him a question or say something, what would you ask or say?
A: “I am so excited to introduce you to your great-Granddaughter, Master grandpa. Luna just turned one and is thrilled to show you how she can now walk!”
Federica Pantana is a lawyer, freelance writer and poet based in New York City. She has been writing poetry since the age of eight. Her first collection of poems (in Italian and English) is available on Amazon Kindle. Another collection of her most recent poetry is in the making. In the past few years, she has been contributing to ODDA Magazine and other fashion magazines. In light of her interest for fashion writing and photography, she is currently working on a fashion & art photography magazine that will be released in early 2018.
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