In conversation
with

Diana Widmaier Picasso

 Photographed by Paola Kudacki

Diana Widmaier Picasso, the granddaughter of Pablo Picasso, has been behind some of the most impactful publications and exhibitions around the artist’s work—whether it be “Picasso.mania” at the Grand Palais (2015) or “Picasso’s Picassos” (2016) and “Picasso and Maya” (2017) at Gagosian.  As an art historian, Widmaier Picasso has interests that have ranged from the personal to the ancient, including archaeology and jewelry customs of past civilizations She wrote her thesis on the art market of the seventeenth century and is the author of numerous essays.

The Curators: With The Curators journal, we wish to pay tribute to the preparatory notebooks of the artists, with their references from all parts and all times (pictorial mnemosyne, literary quotes, contemporary work). The first notebook will have for theme: Eros.

What would be, instinctively, the three artistic references that come to mind?

Diana W. Picasso: Picasso appears as the obvious reference. Eroticism, desire, sensuality and sexuality are essential themes in his work, as a form of way to overcome death: Eros which holds back Thanatos. For me, the busts of Marie-Thérèse, sculpted in 1931 in the Château de Boisgeloup, are evocative: he projects his sexual fantasies onto the shapes of his lover's face. The erotic force of these portraits stems from the metaphor of the sexual union between the artist and her model, the young muse. The paintings of Jacqueline Roque, Picasso's last love, are also interesting. Her body is represented by her sexual organs, like a sort of raw dissection. But she sits in Picasso's favorite armchair, in a familiar and sensual environment.

Pablo Picasso, Nu assis dans un Fauteuil, 1963

Pablo Picasso Bust of a Woman (Marie-Thérèse), 1933

When art historian Jean Leymarie was preparing a talk for a symposium on art and sexuality, he asked his friend Pablo Picasso where he drew the line between these two concepts. The painter replied, ‘They are the same thing, because art can only be erotic.’


Tom Wesselman's drawings are another example: his preparatory drawing from 1984, which prepares his painting 18 Year Old on the Beach or recalls his famous Great American Nudes is a magnificent essay on the intimacy of eroticism, while capturing its universal dimension.

Tom Wesselman, 18 Years Old on the Beach, 1984

Nobuyoshi Araki's photographs are spectacularly erotic imagery. These painted photographs feature nudes inspired by Japanese traditions, ancient and modern, and clearly refer to the Japanese art of Shunga, these small erotic prints. The images of women in kimonos, just revealing their private parts, are a modern reinterpretation of those Shunga which show a certain shyness of the models, and also evoke the idea of ​​secrecy, of what is hidden and can be imagined.

Nobuyoshi Araki, Marvelous Tales of Black Ink (Bokuj ū Kitan) 068, 2007

Nobuyoshi Araki, Tokyo Comedy, 1997

I also immediately think of Ed Ruscha, who is extremely interested in the idea of ​​eroticism and desire, but in its conceptual forms. His 2013 canvas Desire is a linguistic and visual system that mixes clear, clinical, white lettering and a grandiose atmospheric landscape. It's a more subtle way of portraying eroticism.

The collaborative drawings of pascALEjandro (Jodorowsky and his wife Pascale Montando) are also a magnificent example of artistic communion, over several years. Alejandro draws, Pascale puts color. Their work evolves between fantasy, humor, spirituality and mysticism. To me, they represent desire and eroticism as a form of religion.

Ed Ruscha, DESIRE, 2013

pascALEjandro, Réveillant le Golem, 2017

The C. : Could you give us your definition of eros?

Diana W. Picasso : In my opinion, there is no single definition of eros, like the millions of artistic representations of the concept, there are millions of conceptions, both unique and universal. This makes eroticism the most accessible, and the most difficult subject in art. Eros is made up of opposing and complementary notions: form and feeling, body and spirit, intellect and emotion ... Love, pleasure, humor, anxiety, terror, discomfort are also aspects of eros, in a way.

In 2015, I curated an exhibition called 'Desire' in which I was able to explore representations of sexuality through the history of art, and reflect on how society and cultural values ​​of different civilizations influence the view of eroticism.

Marilyn Minter, Haze, 2016

Jenny Saville, Odalisque, 2012–14

As the representations around desire evolve, the borders are crossed, and bring to light new artistic fantasies, an unprecedented imagery. Eros reinvents itself with each generation. Nowadays, for example, the overexposure of naked bodies on the internet or on television alters the very notion of erotic representation.

The C. : Is there a book, a sentence, in particular that marked you on the subject?

Diana W. Picasso : A phrase from my grandfather, which is also the title of my book (Prestel and Assouline, 2005): "Art can only be erotic". This quote shows that Picasso made no distinction between art and sexuality, and illustrates his way of transforming his erotic desire into creative energy.

The C. :what could be for you the obscure object of desire, the one who troubles you?

Diana W. Picasso : I am confused when an apparently non-confusing object disturbs me.