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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 works with video, installations, photography, text and has made three feature films. Berg exposes and plays with clichés, reconfigures fact and fantasy in a quest for new forms of narration. Her work suggests that consensus views of politics, history, and sexuality, are often misleading, and that they reveal considerably more in what they exclude. Born in Oslo, Lene Berg was educated as a film director at the Dramatiska Institutet, Stockholm. She now lives in Berlin and New York.

Her work has been shown at Whitechapel gallery, London, Art in General, New York and Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis, as well as in ‘Transmediale’ Berlin, the Sydney Biennale, The Taipei Biennale, Contour Mechelen and Manifesta 8.