When I started working at the Museu Picasso, six years ago, I was thrilled with the idea of being involved in producing the catalogues that accompany the temporary exhibitions. But I also had a very particular aspiration, the origin of which goes back to 1984.
Cover of the petit journal for the Kandinsky’s exhibition in 1984.
In the autumn of that year I saw a Kandinsky exhibition in Paris and instead of buying the catalogue — with my budget in those days I didn’t dare even to look at it — but what the French call a petit journal. It was the first time I had seen such a thing, and I thought it was great that someone had come up with an ‘invention’ like that for those of us who wanted something to remind us of the experience of visiting the exhibition but couldn’t afford to buy the catalogue. Ever since then, on leaving an exhibition I have often hoped to find on the shelves of the museum shop something like that booklet, simple but well designed, that would capture the spirit of what I’ve just seen.
Now, after so many years, that wish is about to be granted on the occasion of the exhibition “Picasso Looks at Degas”. Our Museum has decided to launch a small collection of publications that, although not exactly imitating the French model, will allow the people who visit some of our exhibitions to take away with them a first-rate summary of its contents and the work they have seen there. We have selected short texts for each double page, accompanied by carefully chosen reproductions of the most important pieces in the show and excerpts from the catalogue to complete the package. In the case of the Degas exhibition we have also included the introduction that the two curators wrote for the catalogue, because it is a very thought-provoking and closely argued text.
Four proposals for the cover
One of the challenges was to find a name for the new collection. In the event, this turned out not to be an easy task. We wanted a short, catchy name that would evoke the spirit of the publication: the desire to provide a summary, a compilation of the essential elements of the exhibition. The designer of the collection, Jason Ellams, came to our rescue here, because in addition to bringing us the first proposals for layouts he gave us a long list of possible titles in English that had occurred to him. In the end we decided to call the collection Abstract, one of the names that appeared on Jason’s invaluable list.
Proposals interior 1 and 3 | Proposal interior 2 (pages 1 and 2)
The design was another challenge. We wanted the publication to be not too large in size, to be elegant and to have a distinctive personality without being strident, laid out so as to be a pleasure to read, with pages characterized by a modest simplicity. Together with Jason, the designer, we evaluated a number of proposals for the covers and two options for the inside pages. I believe the end result is a very good reflection of the ideas we started out with: the format is comfortable, the paper we have chosen is warm and ensures excellent quality in the reproductions of the artworks, and the type of binding — we wanted to stay well away from staples and glue — gives it an air of freshness and fragility that suits it perfectly.
I hope and trust that this new collection will have a long life and that the Museum’s public will make it a point of reference for their visits.