September 30, 2014 / 2:08 PM / 5 years ago

Paris Picasso museum finally set to open after turbulent renovation

PARIS (Reuters) - Pablo Picasso once boasted: “Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.”

A worker puts the final touch during the renovation of the Hotel Sale known as the Picasso Museum in the Marais district of Paris, March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

That wager has been frustrated in Paris for five years, however, as repeated delays, infighting and controversy have marked the renovation of one of the world’s largest collections of one of the 20th century’s most influential artists.

Now the long-awaited reopening - pushed back twice already in the past year - is finally in sight for Oct. 25, the birthday of Picasso, who was born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain but spent most of his adult life in France before his death in 1973.

The opening of the museum, home to an over-5,000 piece collection of paintings, sculptures and prints, as well as Picasso’s personal archives, will put to an end a turbulent period in the city’s cultural scene.

Anne Baldassari, the museum’s president for nine years, was fired from her post in May following public squabbling with her staff and France’s ex-culture minister Aurelie Filippetti, herself dismissed from the government in August.

The war of words even embroiled Picasso’s son, 66-year-old Claude Picasso, who had supported Baldassari and told Le Figaro newspaper in May that “France is making a mockery of my father”.

Even neighbors in the chic Marais district became involved, speaking up against the new “cubist” metal pergola in the garden that they said obscured the facade of the 17th century mansion.

The renovation, which cost about 52 million euros ($66 million), has tripled the size of the exhibition space over five floors, making it more accessible to what is expected to be up to one million visitors per year.

In replacing Baldassari in June with Laurent Le Bon, who had directed the Centre Pompidou-Metz since 2010, Filippetti said the new president possessed “all the qualities required to make the opening of the Musee Picasso the party awaited by all the French”.

As the art world awaits the party, the museum’s cobblestone courtyard will be open on Oct. 4 for the annual Nuit Blanche, one night of nocturnal art happenings in Paris, with a light show on the elegant facade.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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