Picasso, six months later: 'Atelier Picasso' at the BASTIAN Gallery (Review)

September 3rd – October 31st 2020

Free Entry

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Attending Atelier Picasso this week was my first time returning to a gallery post-lockdown, as well as my first time visiting BASTIAN, and it was absolutely refreshing. It’s small, quiet gallery which is sensitive to Covid safety measures. To me, its location in Mayfair and its reputation for being an art dealing hub initially made it seem unapproachable, but it turned out to be very welcoming. BASTIAN opened in February of 2019, and it was wonderful to be visiting a new art space in the city.

Image: BASTIAN Gallery, courtesy of Luke Andrew Walker

Funnily enough, the last exhibition I attended before lockdown was the RA’s Picasso and Paper, so there was an extra element of sentimentality for me in the artwork. Staring at echoes of pieces I’d been looking at half a year earlier, I reflected on how it seemed, just for a beautiful instant, like the last six months hadn’t happened. These echoes, however, gave me another chance to piece together how Picasso worked through his preoccupations. Throughout the RA’s exhibition we were led chronologically through Picasso’s life, whereas BASTIAN gives us a more specific snapshot of his time in Cannes at Villa La Californie following the Second World War.

The exhibition contains a real breadth of mediums: pottery, prints, and paintings with photos taken by André Villers interspersed throughout. Picasso’s range is displayed with depth and variation placed front and centre; simple, sparse line drawings, like Fleurs (1948), are contrasted with lithographs made with bright bold colours, like Seated Woman (Dora Maar) (1955). Two-dimensional work is also hung alongside ceramics such as Picador (1953).

Image: BASTIAN Gallery, courtesy of Luke Andrew Walker

A highlight of the collection for me was Minotaur Caressing a Sleeping Woman (1933-1934). It's a haunting image, exemplifying chiaroscuro in reflection of morality as well as Picasso’s fascination with Classicism and the desiring, sexual self. I was also enamoured with the Villers’ beautiful photographs, casually depicting Picasso working, standing in his studio, or at the beach this generates an unstaged intimacy. A esteemed name becomes human: cigarette in hand, skin and body hair exposed, completely vulnerable.

My only qualm was that the exhibition was described as “immersive experience” and “instillation”, which I’d say are slightly misleading, overly generous descriptions of what the gallery contains. While there may be unique elements, such as a scattering of Picasso’s possessions throughout, it arguably can’t be considered an instillation. Villers’ images depict Picasso’s studio as a fantastic chaos, which sometimes feels strange in the BASTIAN's organised and meditated setting. Regardless, the opportunity to see objects which would have been features of Picasso’s studiotreasured items and sources of inspirationis magical.

Image: BASTIAN Gallery, courtesy of Luke Andrew Walker

It’s a real marvel that over seventy Picasso pieces are available to be seen for free. The exhibition is incredibly digestible, easily seen in under half an hour. If you are in the area I couldn’t recommend it enough, it is a remarkable collection.


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Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor

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