Sale of Picasso NFTs stopped amid family dispute

A disagreement among heirs of the famed Spanish artist has halted a planned sale of digital assets linked to his work

Marina Picasso, granddaughter of Pablo Picasso, and her son Florian were planning to sell one of the famed artist's ceramic works as well as its digital versions. AP
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A planned sale of digital assets featuring the work of Pablo Picasso is not happening after all, after a disagreement among the famed Spanish artist's heirs.

Earlier this week, Marina Picasso, the granddaughter of Picasso, and her son Florian Picasso said a ceramic piece by the artist would go on sale at an auction in March, along with 1,010 digital versions linked to a non-fungible asset or NFT.

“We’re trying to build a bridge between the NFT world and the fine art world,” Florian said, showing AP a sliver of the underside of the ceramic piece, about the size of a large salad bowl. The exposed parts showed forms like a thick yellow line, a dribbling green splodge, and a brushed-on number “58” at the base.

Marina Picasso and Florian Picasso pose with the ceramic artwork that was supposed to go on sale along with digital versions linked to NFT. AP

But on Thursday, lawyers for Picasso's family said that his heirs have not authorised the launch of any such “Picasso NFT.”

Jean-Jacques Neuer, a lawyer for the Picasso Administration – which manages works held by five Picasso descendants, including Marina, and oversees the use of the Picasso name – told the AP that an NFT by Florian and his collaborators were “his own creation, independent of any claim vis-a-vis Pablo Picasso and his works.”

“The information given through the media by which the Picasso heirs would join into the market for ‘Pablo Picasso’ NFTs is thus completely wrong,” he said.

Any association with a Picasso work would violate “artistic monopoly,” and any NFT billed as linked to such a work would be a “counterfeit", Neuer warned in a letter.

Richard Malka, a lawyer for Diana Widmaier Picasso, another granddaughter of the artist, sent the same statement to AP.

Family drama

The Picasso ceramic artwork that is now the centre of a family dispute. AP

Five Picasso heirs have joint ownership of Picasso's intellectual property. They include Picasso's children Maya Widmaier Picasso, Claude Ruiz Picasso and Paloma Ruiz Picasso, as well as two grandchildren: Marina Ruiz Picasso and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the children of another son of the artist, the late Paulo Picasso.

Under a current legal structure, only Claude Ruiz – the administrator for the family – could authorise an NFT project, and he does not favour one, Neuer said.

NFTs are effectively digital certificates of authenticity that can be attached to digital art or pretty much anything that comes in digital form – audio files, video clips, animated stickers, even a news article read online.

“What’s happening is that some members of the family don’t agree with the project, and don’t want the name mentioned,” Florian told the AP.

Florian and his mother Marina had earlier said proceeds from the sale would be donated – one portion to a charity that aims to help overcome a shortage of nurses, and another to a non-governmental organisation that wants to help reduce carbon in the atmosphere. The NFTs would also come with music put together by Florian along with songwriter John Legend and rapper Nas.

Cyril Noterman, the longtime business manager of Florian, who is a DJ and music producer, clarified on Thursday that the NFTs going on sale were in fact linked to Florian’s work, not that of his great-grandfather.

“Maybe we should have been a bit more clear from the beginning,” he said.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 1:58 PM