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For One Day Only, a Prized Picasso Will Decorate the Walls of a Lucky Swiss Art Fan’s Home

Hopefuls must submit an online application detailing how they would celebrate the singular opportunity by April 1

On April 16, the 1939 portrait will travel to a Swiss art lover's home for a 24-hour visit (© Succession Picasso / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich; photo by Luca Schwitalla)
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Ever wondered how a modern art masterpiece would look on the walls of your living room? Thanks to an unusual initiative spearheaded by Basel’s Fondation Beyeler and telecommunications company Swisscom, you could soon find out—provided, of course, you live in Switzerland and come up with a proposal convincing enough to win the hearts of both the public and a panel of judges.

As Caroline Goldstein reports for artnet News, the #myprivatepicasso competition will allow one lucky art enthusiast to host Pablo Picasso’s “Bust of Woman with Hat (Dora)” for a 24-hour period beginning on April 16. The 1939 portrait depicts Dora Maar—the Cubist artist’s muse and a successful surrealist photographer in her own right—and is worth some “several million” francs.

To apply for the singular opportunity, hopefuls must submit an online statement detailing how they would spend their Picasso-filled day, from staging the painting to planning an event around its temporary presence. Participants are also asked to provide a photograph or video that supports their argument and specify the nature of their accommodation, whether it be a student dormitory, shared flat, single-family home or even a chalet. All applications are due no later than April 1.

According to the project portal, interested parties can view and vote for submissions between April 2 and 7. The 20 applications that receive the most votes will be placed on a shortlist and assessed by a panel of Beyeler and Swisscom employees; the final winner will be announced on April 10.

In an interview with BZ Basel’s Marc Krebs, Sam Keller, director of the Beyeler, warns any would-be Picasso owners that the portrait should not be hung in the kitchen or the bathroom, as heat and steam are likely to damage the canvas. A Q&A with the judges includes even more advice: Ulrike Erbslöh, the Beyeler’s commercial director, encourages entrants to “experience and discover Picasso and art in general in a playful way,” while Keller says he is interested in those who have a “good story to tell.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Swisscom’s Balz Walther also emphasizes that the “high safety requirements for the person and the environment must be fully met.”

It’s worth noting that the victor won’t be able to simply borrow the painting and return it 24 hours later. As Rowena Goebel writes for Swiss news outlet Nau, the encounter will be filmed, and a Beyeler specialist will be assigned to properly hang the portrait. A state-of-the-art “smart frame” powered by Swisscom technology will track the work’s location, temperature and environment, ensuring its safety at all times.

The frame in question features eight in-built sensors that fulfill a variety of security needs: An accelerometer records vibrations occurring during transport, for example, while a laser sounds the alarm if anyone gets too close to the painting. In an equally unnerving and novel turn of events, a camera will transmit photographs of the winner’s home “from the perspective of the image.”

Artnet News’ Goldstein notes that the contest aims to publicize the Beyeler’s ongoing Picasso exhibition. Titled The Young Picasso: Blue and Rose Periods, the show delves into the pioneering artist’s early years, specifically 1901 through 1906. Although “Bust of Woman with Hat (Dora)” doesn’t stem from this point in Picasso’s career, Swiss daily 20 Minuten reports that it is a prized highlight of the gallery’s collection.

“We want to make art accessible to a wide audience and bring people who do not often visit museums closer to this world,” Keller explains in a statement, adding that works such as the one at the center of the competition would normally only be loaned to museums with high security standards. Still, Keller concludes, thanks to the foundation's collaboration with Swisscom, “We can safely bring the work to any Swiss home.”

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