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Hong Kong is playing host to 55 Picassos on loan from Paris’ Musée National Picasso, which has more than 5,000 works by the Spanish master in its permanent collection. The French museum is under renovation until summer 2013, and the Picassos were exhibited in San Francisco, Taipei, Shanghai and Sydney before landing in Hong Kong, where they will remain until 22 July.

The 48 oil paintings and seven sculptures on display at the Heritage Museum in Sha Tin span the various periods of Picasso's career, from an 1895 portrait that borders on representational to works from the 1960s and ‘70s featuring the abstract, mismatched-perspective technique that he pioneered.

Since it is the largest Picasso showcase that the city has ever seen, organizers highly recommend booking exhibition tickets in advance from Urbtix. Tickets are 20 Hong Kong dollars, and they also grant you access to the Heritage Museum's permanent exhibitions. Guided tours are available in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and French.

"This exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Hong Kong audience to see so many Picasso pieces from the private collection of the artist, conserved in the Musée National Picasso after his death in 1973," said Gilles Bonnevialle, the consul for culture, education and science at the French consulate in Hong Kong.

Picasso spent much of his life in France, so the exhibition also forms a centrepiece of Hong Kong’s annual French arts and culture festival Le French May, which runs through June 24 in venues all over the city. The program for the festival's landmark 20th year includes film, dance, theatre, opera, music, fashion and visual art events, all with a French slant.

The number of Picassos on show, while significant in its own right, is especially so because it comes at a key time in Hong Kong's cultural development. All over the city, art auctions are consistently breaking records, a handful of big-name international galleries are opening up outposts and Hong Kong is preparing to host an Art Basel fair in May next year.

Hana R Alberts is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel

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