Paris' Picasso museum chief sacked in crisis with staff

PARIS Tue May 13, 2014 2:09pm EDT

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti looks at her mobile phone after a visit at the exhibition ''Birth of a museum'', at the Louvre museum in Paris April 29, 2014.  REUTERS/Alain Jocard/Pool

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti looks at her mobile phone after a visit at the exhibition ''Birth of a museum'', at the Louvre museum in Paris April 29, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Alain Jocard/Pool

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PARIS (Reuters) - The head of Paris' Picasso museum was sacked on Tuesday as a looming staff revolt and a disputed renovation threatened the long-delayed reopening of the world's largest collection of the Spanish artist's works.

Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti took the rare decision of firing Anne Baldassari after inspectors found the museum in crisis with "deep suffering and an anxious environment threatening workers", her ministry said in a statement.

French authorities have also been keen to make peace with Pablo Picasso's descendents after his son accused them of dishonoring the artist by frequently delaying the reopening of the museum, which has been closed since 2009. [ID:nL6N0NR2IP]

Housing nearly 300 of Picasso's paintings, the museum in a 17th century mansion in central Paris was due to re-open in June after a 52-million-euro ($71.3-million) refurbishment.

However, the Culture Ministry has said it had no choice but to push the reopening back to mid-September, which means the museum will miss out on the peak summer tourist season.

Baldassari, who had worked her way up through the museum's ranks since starting in its archives in 1992, has a reputation as a gifted art expert but authoritarian manager.

With the re-opening looming, staff complained to the ministry that tensions in the museum had caused some to resign and leading others to make a public call for her to step down. Some threatened an unlimited strike if she did not go.

When the collection finally reopens, it will showcase the works of the prolific artist who died in 1973 in an exposition space that has tripled in size to 3,800 square meters (41,000 sq ft) over five floors.

Opened in 1985, the museum's collection includes paintings such as Picasso's "Self-portrait" from his early Blue Period through to "Matador" and others completed in the years before his death.

It also includes some 250 sculptures, relief paintings and other works.

($1 = 0.7296 Euros)

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Sophie Louet; Editing by Natalie Huet and Tom Heneghan)

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