Picasso called thief of African art

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The first significant exhibition of Pablo Picasso's work in South Africa has provoked a furious row after a senior government official accused him of stealing the work of African artists to boost his "flagging talent."

The Picasso and Africa exhibition, which has been drawing capacity crowds at Johannesburg's Standard Bank Gallery, contains 84 original works by Picasso along with 29 African sculptures similar to those in the artist's own collection, and is described as an "innovative dialogue between Picasso's work and his African inspiration."

In an extraordinary intervention, however, a spokesman for the South African Department of Arts and Culture has accused the organizers of deliberately downplaying the debt Picasso owed to African artists.

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