Picasso – Birth of a Genius

LocationUCCA Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing)
Dates15 June - 1 September 2019
ArtistPablo Picasso
CuratorEmilia Philippot
ForUCCA Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing)
producersMusée national Picasso-Paris, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art

“Picasso – Birth of a Genius” is the most significant exhibition of work by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) ever to have taken place in China.

The exhibition, which offers a comprehensive overview of the first three decades of Picasso’s career, includes 103 works drawn entirely from the collection of the Musée national Picasso-Paris, which trace Picasso’s development from childhood to middle age.

Exhibition view "Picasso-Birth of a genius" at UCCA Beijing. Courtesy of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art

Curated by Emilia Philippot, Head of Collections, Musée national Picasso-Paris, the exhibition has been conceived and organized specifically for this presentation at UCCA and in China, and includes 34 paintings, 14 sculptures, and 55 works on paper. Taken together, this selection of works, predominantly realized between 1893 and 1921, tells the story of the creative formation and evolution of the most daring, original, and prolific talent in the history of modern art.

The three decades under consideration were a period of artistic discovery and ferment for the young Picasso, whose style underwent numerous changes: from the academic realism of his student days to his post-war return to classical style; from the alternately somber and carnivalesquemotifs of the Blue and Rose periods to the primitivist explorations which ultimately led to the multiple phases of Cubism. Rather than rigidly separating Picasso’s work into different thematic sections, the exhibition seeks to reaffirm the coexistence of seemingly contradictory languages in his creative process, and to highlight the lived realities behind them.

“Picasso – Birth of a Genius” is presented in collaboration with Musée national Picasso-Paris. It is made possible through the support of the French Embassy in China.

“Picasso – Birth of a Genius” is organized in six chapters:

1- “The First Picasso,” which accounts for the artist’s artistic upbringing, when he produced works such as Man in a Cap (1895) and Study of a Torso, After a Plaster Cast (1893-1894);

2- “Picasso Blue and Rose,” during which he advanced from imitating Post-Impressionist masters to develop a truly original style, resulting in works like The Jester (1905) and Two Brothers (1906);

3- “Picasso the Exorcist,” which saw his revolutionary experiments with form and space, producing artworks like Self-portrait (1906) and preparing his masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1907);

4- “Picasso the Cubist,” a period when he wrought an elaborate system of signs, producing works such as Man with a Mandolin (1911) and Man with Fireplace (1916);

5- “Picasso the Chameleon,” which marked the artist’s turn towards classical revivalism, creating works such as The Lovers (1919) and Studies (1920), as well as designing the sets, costumes, and curtain for the Ballets Russes production of Le Tricorne (1919);

6- and a final section which includes several notable paintings and sculptures done between 1927 and 1972, giving a sense of how Picasso’s creative idiom, developed during the period under consideration in the exhibition, informed his later practice.


Exhibition view "Picasso-Birth of a genius" at UCCA Beijing. Courtesy of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art


Exhibition view "Picasso-Birth of a genius" at UCCA Beijing. Courtesy of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art


Exhibition view "Picasso-Birth of a genius" at UCCA Beijing. Courtesy of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art


Exhibition view "Picasso-Birth of a genius" at UCCA Beijing. Courtesy of UCCA Center for Contemporary Art

The exhibition unfolded throughout UCCA’s 1800-square-meter Great Hall, with exhibition design by Studio Adrien Gardère (SAG). This design features a set of monumental beveled and chamfered boxes, pacing and differentiating the diverse themes brought together in the show. Through a game of openings and slots revealing unexpected perspectives and surprises, the exhibition design invites the audience on a rhythmic journey through Picasso’s evolution as an artist, and fosters an infinite conversation in which the works are perpetually reinvented by visitors’ movements. Large-scale prints of Picasso’s portraits and images of his studios underscore each box as a reminder of the artist’s life and times.

For the Musée national Picasso-Paris, the exhibition marks the most substantive presentation of its collection—which includes 5,000 art works and more than 200,000 archival objects—in China to date, and the first since Laurent Le Bon assumed the directorship in 2014. “We are pleased with this new stage in the international cooperation policy led by the Musée national Picasso-Paris,” Le Bon has noted. UCCA Director and CEO Philip Tinari has said, “For UCCA, this exhibition marks the realization of a dream we have held since our opening in 2007, to present not only recent developments in contemporary art but to examine the underpinnings of the contemporary by showing modern masters. We believe that the story of Picasso is relevant to our audience in China, as individuals here continue to answer the challenges of creativity, originality, and innovation.”


"Mother and Child", Paris, fall 1907, 81 x 60 cm, Musée national Picasso-Paris. Courtesy of Succession Picasso 2019


Pablo Picasso, "The Two Brothers", Gosol, Summer 1906,906, 80 x 59 cm, Musée national Picasso-Pari. Courtesy of Succession Picasso 2019.


Pablo Picasso, "The Lovers", 1919. Oil on canvas, 185 x 140,5. Courtesy of Succession Picasso 2019.

Sponsorship and support

“Picasso – Birth of a Genius” was made possible by generous sponsorship from Morgan Stanley, Sotheby’s Artistic partner Marie Dalgar, and ShedeSpirits Co., Ltd.

UCCA thanks collaborators TMALL Culture, the China Women’s Development Foundation “Mom Handmade” charity program, WILLIAMISM, and YLYK for their support.

Children’s educational programs for this exhibition are made possible by Asia Ying’s Baby World Limited and YeeHoO Children Growth Foundation, with further generous support from TMALL. BenQ provides film projection support. HongriLighting provides exclusive lighting equipment support.

Focus Media provides national advertising support. Accommodation and event support come from NUO Hotel Beijing. Transportation support comes from D-Lux Travel. Exclusive support for environmentally friendly wall solutions comes from Dulux. UCCA also thanks the members of the UCCA Foundation Council, the UCCA Contemporary Circle, the UCCA Young Associates, and Strategic Partners Bloomberg and Aranya for their support.

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