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Polemics over Picasso befuddle French authorities

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 13, 2014 at 8:00 am •  Published: May 13, 2014

PARIS (AP) — Paris proudly hosted Picasso for decades, but two controversies around the artist's legacy are now haunting French officials.

One centers on the Paris Picasso Museum, where renovations have dragged for five years amid accusations of mismanagement, labor problems and clashes between the artist's family and the French government. The re-opening has now been pushed back until September — after the summer tourist season.

The other is about the fate of a Left Bank studio where Picasso lived and worked for 19 years, and painted his famed anti-war opus "Guernica" in 1937. A historic preservation panel is meeting Tuesday to decide what's next.

As with many of the Cubist great's works, little is as it first appears.

A legal group has owned the 17th-century manor containing the studio since before Picasso worked there, and now wants to renovate it — perhaps as a luxury hotel.

Some high-profile art lovers are up in arms and say the studio deserves state protection from re-development. The case has raised questions about whether the birthplaces of great art — not just the works — deserve state protection from re-development as part of national heritage.

The Culture Ministry last year ordered a one-year pause to any development while officials consider the implications. That expires in July.

The panel meeting Tuesday may put it on a national register of historic sites, which could make any redevelopment more costly and time-consuming at the least.

A group of artists and actors including Britain's Charlotte Rampling have signed on to a petition decrying any possible redevelopment.

Pablo Picasso spent 19 years living and working in the Hotel de Savoie, as the manor is known. A plaque out front notes how "Guernica," his famed painting decrying Spanish Civil War bloodshed, was painted there in 1937.

Whatever officials decide, the redevelopment "will in no way impact the historic character of the building," said Alexandra Romano, a spokeswoman for the site's owners. She declined to specify the "several" development plans being considered, adding, "This battle doesn't honor the legacy of 'Guernica'."

Alain Casabona, an official at the state-backed National Committee for Arts Education, says the owners want to make the building a hotel. The committee enjoyed free office space in the studio for a decade.

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