The conception of the Museu Picasso
Two important events that took place around the mid-nineteen fifties help us understand the birth of the museum in 1960: on the one hand, Barcelona society, that had always considered Picasso as one of their own, sought to bridge the gap with him, and on the other, the artist himself rekindled his ties with the city. At the same time, Barcelona City Council was striving to stop the process of degradation suffered by La Ribera neighbourhood, once one of the wealthiest parts of the city and where Picasso had lived during his years in Barcelona.
The mutual affection between Barcelona and Picasso

Everything was taking shape when in October 1955, during one of the artist's sojourns in Barcelona, Sabartés visited the retrospective exhibition dedicated to Picasso, Gargallo, Hugué and Torres-García that was on display at Virreina Palace in the framework of the third Latin American Art Biennale, where he met up with the artist's Catalan friends and admirers. Following this meeting, Sabartés would accompany a group of Barcelona residents to France to pay Picasso a visit.

In this way, the ties that had not been severed in the family sphere or among his circle of friends were now resumed at a collective level.

The Pioneers of Art Movements exhibition at Virreina Palace
Fotografia, Mas. Museu Picasso, Barcelona
The movement of barcelona society  that admired Picasso

Many were the friends and enthusiasts who would frequent the artist again and help him evoke the memories of his early days in Barcelona: Joan Vidal Ventosa, Manuel Pallarès and Jacint Reventós are but a few. Picasso also surrounded himself with scholars of his work, such as Josep Palau i Fabre. Among them all, however, two families would play an especially relevant role in the inception of the museum: the Gaspar family and the Gili family.

Dealers Joan and Miquel Gaspar

Dealers Joan and Miquel Gaspar and their respective wives, Elvira Farreras and Ena Alba, met Picasso through Sabartés on a visit they paid him in Cannes in November 1955. From that moment on they became very close friends with Picasso and his wife Jacqueline, and shortly afterwards they organised some exhibitions at Barcelona's Sala Gaspar, the first in October 1956 and the second in December 1960. The second show, which drew long queues, was the most successful, and made Picasso popular in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War.

Joan Gaspar described the artist's reaction as follows:

'Picasso was thrilled with it all because the truth is his success in Barcelona made him happier than any he could have achieved anywhere else in the world.'

Gustavo Gili publishing house

In January 1956 publisher Gustau Gili and his wife Anna Maria Torra visited Picasso with the intention of resuming a project initiated by the publisher's father, Gustau Gili Roig, in 1927 — the publication of La tauromaquia by Pepe Illo with illustrations by Picasso for his bibliophile series Ediciones de la Cometa. The project kindled a genuine friendship with the artist and his wife and in 1957 Picasso made the twenty-six aquatints for the book in one print run. Gustavo Gili, in its turn, would publish the greatest number of books on Picasso in Spanish.

Gustau Gili remembered Picasso accepting the commission with these words:

'No need to insist Gili, because nothing could please me more than making this book.'

Donation of Picasso ceramics in 1957

In 1957 the City Council of Cannes, the town where Picasso was living at the time, organised a monographic exhibition on Spanish ceramics, La Céramique espagnole du XIIIème siècle à nos jours, held at Miramar Palace from 16 February to 22 April. Lluís Maria Llubià, ceramics conservator at Barcelona Art Museums, was among those in charge of selecting the works on display. Llubià visited Pablo Picasso's atelier, where the artist agreed to make a donation of works to the city of Barcelona. Two months later, Picasso donated sixteen original ceramic works to the city, a gesture that spawned Barcelona's future Museu de Ceràmica.

Cession of The Painting Monkey for the auction in benefit of the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc in 1959

On 2 May 1959 Picasso made the drawing entitled The Painting Monkey for the auction in benefit of the Cercle Artístic de Sant Lluc that would be held in 12 May of that same year. Given that the work was dedicated to a local theme and that its price was reasonable, Barcelona City Council decided to purchase it.

Cession of Jacqueline and Afghan Dog for the auction in benefit of the victims of the Vallès floodings in 1962

On 25 September 1962, after intense rain, the waters of River Ripoll spilled over the banks and flooded the Vallès region, causing approximately one thousand deaths and converting the area into a desert of mud. Moved by this natural disaster in the environs of Barcelona, to which he felt closely connected, Picasso rang Anna Maria Torra, wife of Gustau Gili, to tell her he had decided to donate a work from his personal collection for the benefit of the victims of the Vallès area. Following Picasso's gesture, Miró, Dalí, Tàpies, Léger, Braque and many other artists did the same, and a total of 204 works were donated. Barcelona's Regional Government displayed the works at the former Santa Creu Hospital from 1 to 16 December, before they were auctioned. Picasso's Jacqueline and Afghan Dog, painted between 1959 and 1960, was not sold and Picasso himself purchased it for the sum of three and a half million pesetas.

Sgraffiti on the Official College of Architects of Catalonia (COAC)

Architect Xavier Busquets, who won the competition for building the new headquarters of the Official College of Architects of Catalonia in Barcelona's Plaça Nova, commissioned Picasso to produce the drawings for the sgraffiti featured on the friezes on the façade of the building. Picasso accepted the offer and designed three friezes for the three façades, and a further two mural compositions to decorate an interior hall with traditional Barcelona scenes. After drawing the designs in charcoal he chose the sgraffito technique, coating the wall with dark-coloured plaster made of lime mixed with sand, which was executed by Norwegian specialist Carl Nesjar. Before he made the drawings, Busquets sent Picasso photographs of the building and its surroundings and even a 16 mm film with scenes of traditional Catalan festivities (giants, Christmas fairs and human towers) in Plaça Nova.

The restoration of a neighbourhood

As a street, Carrer Montcada dates back to the twelfth century, and gradually gave rise to La Ribera neighbourhood, one of the city's most important historical quarters. The area developed into a residential neighbourhood but around the year 1900 began to decline. In the nineteen thirties a group of dignitaries formed an association called Friends of Carrer Montcada with the intention of urging Barcelona City Council to restore the neighbourhood. The local authority took a great interest and began to restore a few of the façades. In 1953 it purchased Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace, which would be renovated to host public activities. In 1960 Jaume Sabartés, advised by the City Council, chose this palace to accommodate Museu Picasso because of its situation in the heart of La Ribera neighbourhood that evoked the area of the city where Picasso had lived between 1895 and 1904.

Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace

The choice of Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace to house the Museu Picasso collection in 1960 proved propitious for bringing cultural life to the neighbourhood. That same year, the renovation of the palace at 15 Carrer Montcada began. The work, which proved very costly, was supervised from France by Picasso himself during the three years it took to be completed.

The authors of the project for the creation of Museu Picasso

With the support of Joan Ainaud de Lasarte, director of Barcelona Art Museums, Raimon Noguera, notary public in Barcelona who had heard that Sabartés wished to donate his collection of Picasso works to the city to create a museum dedicated to the artist, headed a group of people with different ideologies to present this museum project to the political authorities. Aware that convincing them would be no easy task, Noguera, Ainaud and the other members of the group explained the idea to Josep Maria de Porcioles, then mayor of Barcelona, at an informal dinner held at the Ritz Hotel. Porcioles accepted the offer and pledged to seek favourable votes among his colleagues in the council, in particular those of councillor José Blajot and the delegate for culture José Luis de Sicart. In this way Porcioles was able to discreetly lead a process that culminated in the creation of Barcelona's Museu Picasso.

Berenguer d'Aguilar Palace during the renovation work
Fotografia, J. Pi. Fons família Gaspar
Josep Maria de Porcioles

Josep Maria de Porcioles (Amer, 15 July 1904 - Vilassar de Dalt, 3 September 1993) was mayor of Barcelona during the Franco régime, from 1957 to 1973. His decisions as the head of the council are still controversial today, but the fact remains that, as mayor, he exercised his political will to create Museu Picasso and the project proved successful.

Raimon Noguera

Raimon Noguera (Barcelona, 9 January 1897 - 20 May 1990), a notary public from 1922 to 1972, year in which he retired, reappraised the importance of notarial bonds. Considered to be one of the leading figures in twentieth-century Catalan society, Noguera played a key role in the constitution of Museu Picasso as he managed to tactfully convince the political authorities of the significance of such an opportunity for the city. His participation in the negotiations brought him into contact with Picasso and the two became friends.

Joan Ainaud de Lasarte

Joan Ainaud de Lasarte (Barcelona, 25 March 1919 - 5 November 1995) was an art historian and critic whose knowledge and management skills as head of Barcelona Art Museums proved providential in the inception of Museu Picasso, and in its subsequent consolidation. He became the first director of the museum.