The masses mass for Picass(o)


Having my daily breakfast of espresso and Euronews, I was amazed to see a story on the public response to the Picasso exhibition currently on at the Grand Palais in Paris… the show’s about to close, and tens of thousands of people apparently queued overnight to catch a last glimpse of the works. To facilitate the crowds the Grand Palais hosted a marathon 83-hour viewing session. According to the accompanying article on the Euronews website, more then 700,000 people have visited the exhibition since it opened in October.

And yet the spirit of liberté, égalité, fraternité has not graced all quarters, with detractors late last year describing the populist shows as ‘a cancer’ in the Parisian art world.

Elsewhere the arts democracy has gained stronger footing, as the BBC last Wednesday announced its intent to put 200,000 paintings in public ownership online, and the imminent appointment of a new arts editor and arts board to enhance coverage. This follows on too from the innovative move by the Prado in early January to place some of its greatest paintings on Google Earth in extreme high resolution, allowing online viewers to see the works in astonishing detail.

And yet, I can’t help but feeling a mixture of exhilaration and depression at such news… imagine an RTE arts board? The public queuing for hours to see a National Gallery exhibition? Irish paintings in the public ownership actually (gasp!) online? What happens to a dream deferred…