This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, and museums across Europe and the US are “pulling out all the stops” to celebrate his life and work. Among the most essential destinations on any “immersion tour” is Málaga, says Andrew Ferren in The New York Times. Picasso was born in this Andalusian city, and though his family moved to A Coruña, in northern Spain, when he was nine, he always “considered himself a malagueño”. It was in Málaga that his artistic gift was first recognised by his father, José Ruiz y Blasco, a painter and art teacher, and aspects of the city and its “deeply layered” heritage would appear repeatedly in his work.
Málaga was founded by the Phoenicians in the seventh century BC, and you can get a powerful sense of its ancient roots and the “idyllic” aspects of life here by visiting the Roman theatre and the Moorish hilltop fortress, the Alcazaba, with its elegant arcades, “lush” gardens and “countless” fountains. For an “amazingly thorough and detailed chronicle” of the city’s history, head to the Museum of Málaga, where there’s a particularly strong collection of paintings depicting scenes – “raucous” celebrations after bullfights, elegant garden parties and so on – from the era of Picasso’s childhood (he was born in 1881). Yet more essential is a visit to his childhood home, the Casa Natal, where there are exhibitions of his prints, drawings and sketchbooks, and also of family heirlooms and photos.
Picasso left Spain during the Civil War in the 1930s and – an enemy of the Franco government – never returned. Plans to establish a museum of his work in Málaga in the 1950s were quashed by the regime, and it was not until 2003 that the Museo Picasso Málaga opened, spearheading a wave of openings (including a satellite branch of the Pompidou Centre) that has electrified the city’s cultural scene. Housed in a 16th century palace, it tells the story of the artist’s career through an astonishingly diverse collection of 250 works.
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