Uzbek museum unearths forgotten Picasso ceramics

Updated 07 November 2012
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Uzbek museum unearths forgotten Picasso ceramics

TASHKENT: Workers at a state art museum in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan have discovered a long-forgotten collection of Picasso ceramics in the archives and put them on display, more than four decades after the pieces were donated.
The collection includes decorative and dessert plates and several jugs featuring favorite Picasso motifs including a dove, a woman’s face and a bull’s head. Art expert Gulchehra Akhunova, who helped put the exhibition together, said researchers found the works by chance. “We were looking for Russian porcelain items in the archives to fill up the museum’s Russian avant-garde department last year. Then suddenly we came across the ceramic works by Picasso,” she told AFP.
Pablo Picasso branched out into ceramics in the 1940s and went on to create hundreds of works at a French pottery called Madoura. In June, Christie’s auction house sold a collection of his ceramics and other items from the workshop for $12.6 million (9.8 million euros).
His ceramics ended up in Uzbekistan after being donated to the Soviet Union by the widow of a friend of Picasso’s.
The 12 ceramic works were sent to the Tashkent museum after being donated on behalf of the French Communist party around four decades ago, the museum’s chief curator, Mirfayz Usmonov, told AFP.
Museum documents name the ceramics as “a donation from Nadia Leger of France, on behalf of the Institut Maurice Thorez of the French Communist Party.”
“The first seven items were received in 1968, then in 1971 the museum received four more ceramic dessert plates from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow,” Usmonov said. The museum has not yet accounted for how the final item in the collection arrived in Uzbekistan, he added. “We have to dig out archive documents to find out the origin of the one other Picasso masterpiece we have got here.”
Nadia Leger was the Russian-born widow of the French painter Fernand Leger, a close friend of Picasso.
Both Picasso and Leger had felt sympathy towards Soviet socialism and were friends of the longtime French Communist party leader Thorez, who spent many of his years in the Soviet Union. All items were made in the Madoura pottery workshop in southeastern France, according to their documents.
The museum staff and experts said the Picasso collection had been put on display at some point before falling into obscurity in the archives.
“While preparing the exhibition, I found archive documents that said the Picasso collection was displayed alongside other ceramic and porcelain works in the past. But I don’t remember the exact years,” art expert Akhunova said.
Picasso’s works remained on the museum’s records but were neglected because they came from the West, said Dinara Turaeva, a young art expert at the museum.


“I heard that there just was not much interest in Western art when Picasso works were first displayed many years ago,” she said.
State-owned museums throughout the ex-Soviet Union went through a period of turmoil after the end of the Soviet era, when many struggled to survive, let alone properly catalogue their archives.
The exhibition runs to January 10, 2013.


All eyes on Salah as Egyptians await Champions League final

Updated 48 min 21 sec ago
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All eyes on Salah as Egyptians await Champions League final

CAIRO: An owner of a Cairo coffee shop supervised last-minute arrangements for Saturday’s European Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool, giving instructions to his employees as they lined up chairs and set up a bigger television set.
“Today is the big day for us. No match is more important than tonight’s, simply because Mohamed Salah is playing,” Mohamed Fathy, the owner of a cafe located in the affluent district of Maadi in southern Cairo, told Arab News.
Salah has enjoyed a record-breaking debut season with Liverpool and could cap a remarkable campaign by leading the Reds to the most-coveted European title as they face serial winners Real Madrid, who are eyeing a third successive triumph.
Nicknamed the Egyptian King, Salah has racked up a record 32 Premier League goals in a 38-game campaign and netted 10 Champions League goals to help Liverpool reach their first final since losing 2-1 to AC Milan in 2007.
He has become a national hero in Egypt, with his popularity hitting unprecedented heights. Saturday’s Champions League final is given more attention than any fixture for Cairo giants Ahly or Zamalek, who each have a huge fan base in the football-mad country.
“We raised our prices a bit because this is the probably the most important day of the football season. We expect to welcome the same number of people who came to the cafe when Egypt defeated Congo (last October) to reach the World Cup,” Fathy said.
Salah ‘gatherings’
Friends have been making plans for weeks to watch the game, choosing between a plenty of options as Cairo’s cafes and mega-malls gear up for the final.
Cairo Festival City, a mall in the upscale Fifth Settlement district, installed a huge screen for its visitors, creating a stadium-like atmosphere. Vodafone, Egypt’s leading mobile operator, launched a competition and invited customers to watch the match and have the pre-dawn Suhoormeal at Cairo’s upmarket Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Coffee shops in poorer areas also replaced their television sets with larger models, which were placed in the streets in order to accommodate as much people as possible.
Many friends are planning to come together in large gatherings at homes after the Ramadan iftar meal to watch Salah in action, but some have mixed emotions.
Spanish giants Real Madrid, the world’s most successful outfit, are popular in Egypt and favored by millions of Egyptians, who will be equally keen to see Salah lift the Champions League trophy in Kiev.
“I really don’t know who I should support now; my heart is split between Real Madrid, the club I have been supporting since I was child, and Salah who deserves to finish his season by winning such a prestigious title,” said Mahmoud Raheem, a 32-year-old fan.
But Liverpool and Salah still enjoy the unique support of their own fans. The club, England’s most successful in Europe, has an official fan club in Egypt, which includes thousands of supporters.
They plan to watch the game on a huge screen in Cairo’s Nasr City district, hoping Salah could play an instrumental role in giving them a title they have long sought.
“It will be difficult against Real because of their experience, but we still have deadly counter-attacking abilities that could help us a lot. Salah has had a great season and it would be great if he can finish the season by leading us to the trophy,” said Ahmed Maher, a 36-year-old Liverpool fan.
If Salah wins the Champions League, he will only become the second Arab to taste that glory after Algerian great Rabah Madjer, who was on target in Porto’s famous 2-1 comeback win over Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup final.