Paris Picasso museum shuts for two-year renovation

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By AFP

Paris's Picasso museum closed on Monday for a two-year, 30-million-euro (43-million-dollar) renovation of one of the world's major galleries devoted to the Spanish-born master.

On the eve of the closure more than 5,800 people seized a last chance to view the collections, housed in a 17th-century mansion in the historic Marais quarter, which was open free of charge, a museum spokesman said.

Opened in 1985, the national Picasso museum houses a 5,000-strong collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, photographs and documents, but only a fraction are on display at any one time due to space restrictions.

Tracing the artist's prolific career, most of the exhibits were left to the French state upon his death in 1973, with others donated by his family including his last wife Jacqueline.

In the coming weeks, the collection will be packaged up and shipped under tight security to government warehouses for the duration of the works.

Loans of Picasso artworks will also be put on hold, while the museum uses the renovation as a chance to digitise and restore part of its collection.

Financed in part by travelling exhibitions over recent years, the renovation will see the museum's available display space doubled from some 1,000 square metres (10,750 square feet) to more than 2,000, reopening in February 2012.

It also involves remodelling the exhibition and visitor areas to put a new focus on educational content for children and teenagers, and make the displays more accessible to disabled people.

Half a million people visit the Paris Picasso museum each year, 65 percent of them

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