The Picasso museum in Paris has reopened following a renovation which took more than twice as long as scheduled. The official ceremony took place on what would have been the famed artist's 133rd birthday.
The museum, housed in a 17th Century mansion in the French capital's Marais district, was officially reopened Saturday after an extensive renovation which lasted five years and cost 52 million euros ($66 million). The festivities were timed for the birthday of the artist, who was born in Malaga, Spain on October 25, 1881, but lived most of his adult life in France.
"You don't build anything on nostalgia. Pablo Picasso was a painter of the future, of hope, of conquests; he freed himself from the rules of the past. He was avant-garde. France is an avant-garde country," French President Francois Hollande told those gathered at the long-awaited opening, calling Picasso the best-known artist of the 20th century.
The renovation has more than doubled the size of the exhibition space so visitors can see more of the museum's 5,000 piece collection, including paintings, drawings and sculptures. About 400 pieces will be on display.
Museum president Laurent Le Bon said museum visitors would now be able to move around much more easily.
The renovation project was not without controversy, following reports of repeated delays and infighting.
The museum's president of nine years, Anne Baldassari, was sacked in May following public squabbles with staff and France's then culture minister Aurelie Filippetti. The controversy displeased Picasso's son Claude, who criticized the French government in newspaper reports at the time.
Hollande also used the reopening to address another controversy, that of the attack last weekend on a giant green inflatable sculpture in Paris's famed Place Vendome, by US contemporary artist Paul McCarthy. The sculpture, entitled "Tree," came under public criticism for its apparent resemblance to a sex toy and was vandalized shortly after its installation.
The French president condemned "the act of stupidity which leads to an artist being attacked or his work being destroyed."
se/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)