Picasso family feud over NFTs

The last few weeks have witnessed a series of mixed messages emanating from the family of Pablo Picasso, following the initial announcement by his granddaughter Marina and great-grandson Florian that 1,010 NFTs of a never-before-seen ceramic bowl would be released.

Marina and Florian originally announced that they would be releasing the NFTs on 28 January 2022, and the ceramic bowl that the NFTs were based on would also be sold at Sotheby’s New York in March. The pair had created the series, collectively titled Picasso Man and the Beat, which included imagery of the bowl transformed into five short animations set to snippets of a new song that Florian, who is a DJ, had made in collaboration with John Legend and the rapper Nas.

Florian Picasso told The Associated Press that they were “trying to build a bridge between the NFT world and the fine art world”, and that he believed, had his great-grandfather been alive today, he would have embraced the new form of art: “evolution played a huge role in Picasso’s personal and artistic development and we believe that NFTs mirror that as they begin to infiltrate our society. He would be interested in its abstract influence on the art world.”

Matthew Liu, co-founder of Original Protocol, the decentralized marketplace who are hosting the website for the NFTs, spoke positively of the release: Picasso Man and the Beat is bridging together the past and the future, representing how traditional forms of art and their legacies are being migrated to the burgeoning NFT landscape”.

However, the pair were immediately hit by numerous obstacles. Sotheby’s denied any involvement in the sale of the bowl in March, which seems unusual given Florian and Marina’s previous statement. But the bigger issue was that the Picasso Administration blocked the sale of the NFTs. Jean-Jacques Neuer, the lawyer for the Picasso Administration, stated that the organisation had not approved the sale of any NFTs, and that “the information given through the media by which the Picasso heirs would join the market for ‘Pablo Picasso’ NFTs is completely wrong.” The Picasso Administration manages the works by Picasso owned by three of his surviving children, Maya Widmaier, Claude and Paloma Picasso, and two of his grandchildren, Marina and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso. The structure of the foundation means that any NFTs have to be approved by Claude Picasso, who evidently objected to the plan. Without his approval, Neuer has said that any so-called Picasso NFT would be a “counterfeit”.

Despite this, on 3 February Marina and Florian released a series of NFTs on the platform Nifty Gateway. They appear to have overcome the family’s objections by omitting any reference to this being a ‘Pablo Picasso NFT’. Neuer says that he requested Nifty Gateway clearly displays the disclaimer: “The NFTs are the personal creation of Marina and Florian Picasso, not related to Pablo Picasso, his name or his work.”

Marina and Florian are not the first family of an artist to have turned to digital art as a means to take advantage of the recent boom in NFTs. However, the family feud that resulted points to the legal complications of both NFTs and artists’ estates. 

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