Paris’ Picasso Museum is closing its doors for renovations, spiriting away its masterpieces under high security to government warehouses for more than two years while seeking to expand the much-visited but cramped site.
The museum will be free to all visitors Sunday, the last day before the work begins.
It will stop lending out Picasso artworks during the overhaul, which will begin with experts updating, computerizing and restoring the inventory, museum director Anne Baldassari said Saturday.
The museum, in a baroque mansion in Paris’ Marais district, opened in 1985, and it traces the Spanish-born artist’s prolific career. Picasso died in 1973.
Renovation of the 3,000-square-meter (32,000-square-foot) space will begin early next year. It is expected to last two years and cost euro20 million, the museum said in a statement.
“It needs modernizing,” Baldassari said, citing electrical problems and the need to make it more accessible to people with reduced mobility.
She also wants to boost attendance — currently at about half a million people a year — and attract more young people by expanding exhibition space and adding halls for student activities.
While the museum has about 5,000 pieces in stock, it only displays 250-300 at a time, she said. “We can’t continue like this,” she said.
To guard against theft of the museum’s riches during the renovation, the artworks will be packaged and shipped, under tight security, to storerooms managed by the national museum authority, Baldassari said. The entire process is very “locked-up and watched by police,” she said on France-Info radio, declining to give further details.
Picasso’s paintings, sculptures and sketches are among the world’s most coveted artworks and are often targeted by thieves.
The museum will continue to host education and cultural events related to the Picasso collection at other sites while the renovation is done.