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Stalin by Picasso or Portrait of Woman with Moustache
Lene Berg

With very simple means, mainly through collages and voice-over, this video tells the story of a more or less forgotten Picasso-drawing and it’s consequences.

In March 1953 Pablo Picasso drew a portrait of Joseph Stalin on the request of his friend Louis Aragon. The drawing was published in the French communist weekly ‘Les Lettres françaises’ together with various texts praising the newly deceased Soviet leader. To Aragon’s and Picasso’s surprise the drawing provoked strong reactions, and some days after the publication the Central Committee of the French Communist Party condemned Aragon and Picasso on the front-page of L’Humanité. This was the starting-point of the so-called ‘Portrait Scandal’, or ‘L´affaire du Portrait́’ on which this video is built.

On one level, it is a story evolving around two seemingly opposite icons from the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso and Joseph Stalin, and what they had, or didn’t have, in common. On another level, it is a story about art and artistic freedom, or un-freedom, and of ways of reading and using images, particularly images of so-called great men. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this anecdote from the beginning of the cold war is how a simple charcoal drawing can initiate so many feelings, discussions and intrigues as this one did.

Keywords Montage, Essay
Aspect ratio 1.33:1 (4:3)
Prod. format Generic SD-video
Duration 00:31:00
Language English
Color Color
Year 2008
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About the artist

Lene Berg

Lene Berg, born 1965, is a Norwegian film director and visual artist based in Berlin and Oslo. Her main media is film and moving image, but her artistic praxis also includes installation, collage, photography, and text; and she has produced a number of projects in public space. She studied film at Dramatiska Institutet in Stockholm and has directed four independently produced feature films as well as a number of short films and mixed-media artworks and installations for galleries, museums, and public spaces.  Berg’s autobiographical film False Belief  premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2019 and was nominated for the Amnesty and Teddy Award. She represented Norway in the 55th Venice Biennale with the film Dirty Young Loose (2013). In 2022 she did the Festival Exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall, which is considered the most important solo presentation of a Norwegian artist in the country. In 2023 she published her first novel, Fra far/From father at Kolon.

Berg’s work has been shown at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo; Henie Onstad Kunstsenter; Konsthall C, Stockholm; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Art in General, New York. She has participated in a number of group exhibitions and biennales such as Manifesta; the Biennale of Sydney; the Taipei Biennial; Contour Mechelen and Transmediale Berlin.