BWW Interviews: Olivier Widmaier Picasso - In the Shadow of Pablo, One Picasso Shines Brightly
In the shadow of Pablo, one Picasso shines brightly
by Barry Kostrinsky
"It is possible to be a Rothchild after Rothchild but it is impossible to be Picasso after Picasso." Olivier Picasso
Seeing Olivier Widmaier Picasso for the first time you can not help but notice the resemblance to his grandfather, the father of modern art, Pablo Picasso. Beyond an admitted nose-likeness he does resemble Pablo on some deeper level. Was I looking for this and did that cloud an objective view?-Hard to tell in this dream we call life.
Grandson of Picasso, Grandson of Marie-Therese, Son of Maya Widmaier-Picasso. Olivier Picasso is often thought of as 'of' this and that. From what I saw in our meeting atop the Mandarin Orient's 26th floor lobby, Olivier is an interesting fellow of many sorts. His dialogue was alive and warm. The legacy of a famed grandson is often hard to bear and can leave scars. Instead of scars I found a creative spirit and a free mind that did not fall from the tree of that great deep visual madman who's Oeuvre comprises careers worthy of ten great artists. Only from Leonardo could you clone out a larger stable.
Portrait of Marie-Therese, affectionately referred to as "Grandmother" by Olivier as he scrolled through is I-phone photos.
Olivier's insight into Pablo's art and passion for spontaneity had me thinking anew about an old friend. He made me pause and ponder Pablo's theatrical work with Diaglhilev as early Surrealism. These were thoughts not weened from a pre-teens infrequent meeting with a distant poppa. It comes from insight.
Olivier wrote " Picasso: The Real Family Story" in 2002. Out in Paris and soon to be released in the United States is "Picasso: The Intimate Story." Indeed Olivier expressed how hard it is to write about family- heck it is hard to live with 'em too. I can relate and know it can even be hard to paint from personal experience though this is de rigueuer the last hundred years. For Pablo, painting Marie-Therese and others was a way to express how he felt. While Olivier was in the US for an important cause it is funny to note how he entered freely where his grandfather could not go. Pablo never stepped foot on US soil and was denied entry to his solo exhibit at MOMA during the McCarthy era in the late 1950's. We have a few skeletons in our cultural closet.
Tyre: The Triumphal Arch with modern Tyre encroaching in the background
Picasso's tour is being organized by the International Association to Save Tyre (IAST), a leading NGO in Lebanon whose mission is the implementation of activities aimed at heritage protection, the preservation of the marine environment, the rehabilitation of traditional crafts, the promotion of cultural tourism and socio-economic development. Reem Chalabi, the daughter of Maha Chalabi - the founder of AIST is passionate about the casue and has known Olivier since they were kids. I should have gone to that school!
As there are only a maximum of 50,000 tickets being sold your chance to own "L'Homme au Gibus" ( in contemporary Harlem parlence "Homie with Opera Hat") painted with gouache on paper from 1914, is about a thousand times more likely than winning the Lottery. I can't but think of Flannery O'Conner and that winning some Lotteries are like loosing a really bad dodge-ball game. Olivier liked that a non-billionaire can now own a Picasso worth a million plus for less than $150 or dinner for one at the Mandarin's restaurant or those posh spots in the adjacent towers near Columbus circled.
The Tyr Foundation is important to Olivier and he recognizes both the wealth of archeological history buried deep in many civilizations dirtied remains and the current need for support of the local artisans, crafts people, fisherman and just plain folk that need work. Olivier seems passionate and genuine about helping embattered people. It took over 2 years to get the okay from the French government to do the project because of the Lottery like format for the sale. I asked if the foundation was politically motivated and was told it was a-political. Is that possible in the middle east?
Obvious question jumped from my lips; "What is it like to be a Picasso, do you make art?" Olivier responded with a gem- "It is possible to be a Rothchild after Rothchild but it is impossible to be Picasso after Picasso." He emphasized Pablo was a family man. Indeed much has been made of Pablo's relationships with various woman. Olivier brought to mind the images I recall from late night you tube searches in which I did not spot a well donned Velasquez or a suited Man Ray but instead I saw a T-shirted man playing spontaneously with his left over fish bones and comfy in his home-studio wearing slippers or bare foot.
I joked, "tell me do you have Picasso's all over the walls?" And yes, Olivier told me his walls are filled with Picassos. Few could argue against Pablo's importance to Modern Art and even less could deny his proliferation. If Olivier was Vermeer's great-great-great-grandson we might not like the heirloomed works hanging in private halls; However there are more than enough Picasso's to go around.
So if you'd like one, skip a dinner or two and grab a ticket. The drawing is the 18th of December in Paris at Sothebys, 7pm sharp; But as were my interviewees I'd expect the auction to start a bit late in France( actually, the idea behind French folks late arrivals is to give the host more time to be ready; It is either a good cultural excuse or NYC and Paris taxi and traffic woes). Gonna ask my editor for some plane fare and 100 Euros, or just maybe I'd throw in 100 Euros from deep in the bureau and hope to own a piece of Cubism's great master. You can too, just go to www.1picasso100euros.com or if you are fearful of missing the action on facebook you can go to https://www.facebook.com/1Picasso100Euros