There are two main aspects to the Palau Foundation’s collection which form a double legacy from Josep Palau i Fabre. Firstly, the collection brought together by his father, Josep Palau i Oller, which covers a wide range of Catalan art dating back to the start of the 20th century. Secondly the contribution of Palau i Fabre himself who, in an effort to continue what his father had started, added a large number of works by Picasso along with works by contemporary artists such as Perejaume, Barceló and Pepe Yagües.
The Foundation's art gallery could almost be called "A Hundred Years of Art Collecting" because it includes works collected by my father from the beginning of the 20th century (there's a drawing by Mompou dated 1906) until the end of the century and into the early years of the 21st century.
It's not often that an artist, a painter, feels a sense of admiration for other contemporary artists and, therefore, decides to collect works of art by them. This openness that was a characteristic of my father, Josep Palau i Oller, was something I lived and breathed from early childhood. Many of the pieces in the Catalan collection I have known since I was a small child at home (a watercolour by Nonell, a drawing and engravings by Xavier Nogués), and others going back to when I was a teenager, such as the Grausala and the Villà. The collection also includes works that will, I'm sure, come as a something of a surprise to some: the Torné Esquius, for example, or the Ignasi Mallol.
Having seen from an early age not only my father paint but also some of his friends (such as Mompou and Labarta), and having been present at discussions, disquisitions –and also a few arguments– at home about painting and art, my sensibilities became conditioned at a very early age. Consequently, I place art at the top of all human endeavours.
Although my own contribution relates to Picasso who, for me, is the greatest that has ever lived, perhaps I wouldn't have had such a sensitivity to art if the seeds hadn't been sown in me early on. Just hearing Picasso discussed awoke my curiosity very early on –something that very soon became an unconditional passion for the painter's exceptional and quite unique personality.
I would have wanted to have many more works by Picasso than those I've managed, through effort and sacrifice, to collect. But something happens with Picasso, a phenomenon that can't be compared with what occurs with any other artist: you can never have enough. A Picasso makes you want to look at it, and makes you want to possess one… and then another, and another and another, ad infinitum, because Picasso is new and different every time. An El Greco, to give a very good example, shows us the genius of El Greco, but that’s not the case with Picasso.
The personality of Picasso was an all-consuming one. It made me, from a certain moment on in my life, want to dedicate myself to possessing his works, to the exclusion of everyone else. I have to say that it was an exhibition of works by Perejaume, in 1980, that made me change my opinion –which I'd thought it wasn't possible to change. Looking at the work, I said to myself, “This is the real thing”. I had the opportunity to collect works by a great artist from the outset, and that’s exactly what I did. And I’ve never regretted it.
Fifteen years later, I also found myself seduced in a similar way by the works of Pepe Yagües and, luckily, I was early enough to be able to acquire one.
But there’s always a sense of regret when it comes to this kind of thing and I doubt whether one can ever be completely satisfied.
The works by Picasso that make up the Foundation’s collection belong to very different times, styles and techniques. I mean that no other restrictive criteria have ever been used –apart from financial ones– when deciding to acquire the works. On the contrary. I have always thought that the most fundamental thing about Picasso is the diversity of his output. However I understand and hope that this collection, even with its limitations, will bring about in visitors the most important (and initial) reaction –that a Picasso can, and should, produce– one of admiration mixed with surprise and a certain intoxication. Looking at a Picasso, discovering the artist's work, should produce a kind of beneficent euphoria because Picasso is, before anything else, full of life. Then, to greater or lesser degrees and depending on the viewer, come a desire to find out more, to explain the works' enigmas, to find an order. To help this process the Foundation has labelled and ordered works chronologically in its general catalogue. And, all being well, this will make the visitor or the amateur artist want to find out more and to go deeper. But beforehand, the viewer needs to have a degree of fascination and enthusiasm because without them, it’s practically impossible to get inside the overflowing creativity of the works. We've tried to organise the Picasso Room in accordance with this principle and to provoke this response, which is a very healthy reaction. For this reason, we haven’t hesitated in mixing works from different periods, styles and techniques and, because life and art are inseparable, to intersperse them with photographs of the artist.
After spending many years travelling around Catalonia and throughout the Catalan-speaking world, I finally found, in the Diputació de Barcelona and the town of Caldes d’Estrac, the kind of reception I thought deserving of my double collection.