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The renovated Picasso Museum, closed since 2009 for renovation, finally reopened on Saturday in the Hôtel Salé, a Baroque 17th-century mansion. Cre

With Self-Portrait of a Lifetime, Picasso Returns to Paris Pedestal - The Picasso Museum Reopens in Paris (by Holland Cotter)

PARIS - "Give me a museum and I'll fill it," Pablo Picasso reportedly said. Whether he did say it or not, it sounds like him, serial overproducer. And in a gray, leaf-drifting October here he's as good as his word. The Picasso Museum, which closed for expansion in 2009, has finally reopened at more than twice its former size, but years overschedule and wrapped in a swirl of intrigue.

For the news media, the renovation project has been a gift. Work on the Baroque mansion that houses the museum, the world's largest Picasso collection, dragged scandalously on and on. Budgets ballooned. There were shocked firings (Anne Baldassari, the museum's director was dismissed), high-level hissy fits and ad hominem attacks galore. Who could ask for more?

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The art-loving public could. The museum, which debuted in 1985, is a popular draw. No matter how many great individual Picasso works there are in London, Madrid or New York, in its museum Paris has the artist himself, early and late, in major and minor mode. No wonder anxious crowds lined the sidewalks and swarmed the front door here for the public opening on Saturday.

Once inside, what do they get? Fabulousness - and frustration. On the unqualified positive side, there are more than 400 Picasso works encompassing his career, along with a gemlike selection of pieces he owned by artists he loved: Chardin, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin, Braque, Miró, Matisse and Henri Rousseau. And in a sense, even his own work here represents a personal choice.

In breadth, texture and spirit, the exhibition is like no other. It is utterly different from, say, the large selection of Picassos in "Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection" now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met show is a classic lineup of trophy masterpieces. What's at the Picasso Museum is closer to a sublime teaching collection, with scraps and masterworks mixed together. The goal here is less to monumentalize an artist or a style than to tell a complex story of how art is made by one person of protean energy over a specific stretch of time.

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