Forty years after Picasso’s death, while his paintings are among the most expensive ever sold, the problem of how to authenticate his work remains a challenge. To avoid mistakes, four of his five surviving heirs have clarified the process but have not included his elder daughter
Picasso could be capricious when it came to authenticating his own work. On one occasion, he refused to sign a canvas he knew he had painted, saying, “I can paint false Picassos just as well as anybody.” On another, he refused to sign an authentic painting, explaining to the woman who had brought it to him, “If I sign it now, I’ll be putting my 1943 signature on a canvas painted in 1922. No, I cannot sign it, madam, I’m sorry.” And on yet another occasion, an irked Picasso angrily covered a work brought to him for authentication with so many signatures that he defaced and effectively ruined it.
Even today, 40 years after Picasso’s death, the question of how his heirs exercise their right under French law to authenticate his work is a knotty one.
Picasso was, by some estimates, one of the wealthiest men in the world when he died, in 1973. In the early 1980s, after years of legal wrangling and well-publicized squabbling over the settlement of his estate, his heirs established a committee to officially authenticate his works. In 1993, however, that committee was disbanded after disputes among the heirs over the authenticity of a set of drawings. Afterward, two of the heirs—Picasso’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso and son Claude Ruiz-Picasso—began issuing certificates of authenticity independent of one another. This created a situation that dealers say has been time-consuming and awkward, particularly because auction houses, faced with dual (and dueling) authentication options, were increasingly requiring certificates from both heirs.
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