Comprehensive Picasso exhibit opens in Madrid

— When she started planning the Picasso exhibit, curator Paloma Esteban sent 200 letters to museums and private collectors around the world asking them to lend their works.

Only one agreed.

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AP Photo

A man walks past Spanish artist Pablo Picasso's 1963 painting titled "The Painter and His Model" at the Reina Sofia art gallery March 27 in Madrid, Spain. The show, which continues until June 18, brings together more than 120 works by Picasso from major institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

For the next three years, she had to call the owners one-by-one, and often meet in person, to persuade them to part with their treasures for the sake of "Picasso: The Great Series," now showing at the Reina Sofia national contemporary art museum.

"There are art exhibits and there are Picasso exhibits," Esteban said. "Anyone who's tried to organize a Picasso exhibit knows that they are incredibly difficult. When it comes to Picasso, there is a very strong emotional component."

Exhibition organizers say that Picasso shows are especially hard to put together because of the high insurance rates and wide dispersion of the many valuable paintings by the artist, who completed more works in a year than some masters created in a lifetime.

But most of all, the owners are very attached to the works. Many of those participating in the show have never loaned their works, said coordinator Mercedes Mazagon.

The show, which runs through June 18, brings together more than 120 works by Pablo Picasso from major institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

The retrospective focuses on the prolific period between 1953 and the artist's 1973 death in Mougins, France, at age 91.

The exhibit includes numerous versions of "Women of Algiers, After Delacroix" and "Las Meninas, After Velazquez," as well as originals like "The Painter and his Model" and "Shade."

According to Esteban, the show is an unprecedented collection of series which the artist composed to honor the masters who inspired him in his early days, such as French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix and Diego Velazquez, the 17th-century Spanish painter.

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