Pablo Picasso died in April of 1973 at the age of 91 with an estate including assets estimated to be valued somewhere between $100 million and $260 million. Surprisingly he left no Will, and it took over 6 years and $30million to settle the estate.
Shortly before his death French Inheritance laws changed permitting illegitimate children to be recognised as heirs. His illegitimate son Claude was appointed by the court to administer and distribute the estate amongst five other heirs.
After Pablo’s death, his only legitimate son Paulo and Pablo’s last wife opposed the claims of Claude, Paloma and Maya to a share in the Picasso estate. But French courts recognized the rights of the three — all born out of wedlock —albeit to a lesser share than Paulo and his stepmother. After the court decision, the relationship between the three illegitimate children and Paulo became amicable.
An incredibly prolific artist—he is thought to have produced some 50,000 works throughout his lifetime—Picasso’s legacy has been complicated by the many heirs he left behind. What followed was protracted legal battles over how to exercise their communal right to exploit the Picasso name commercially which was settled by a French court in 1989.
Apart from their collected artworks the most marketable asset of the estate is the licensing of the Picasso name and image and each year the estate conducts multiple lawsuits to fight infringement of the Picasso trademark.
Claude Picasso as legal administrator of Picasso’s estate and the head of the Picasso Administration manages the licensing of Picasso’s name. Each year, much of the Administration’s annual report is dedicated to court cases that have been settled or are pending. Despite their persistence in protecting the artist’s name, there still remain hundreds of illegal brands titled “Picasso” around the world.
In regards to Picasso’s artworks, Claude remains the official authenticator of Picasso’s artworks and receives on average almost 1000 requests for authentication annually. The verification process can be complicated, given the scholarship required and the necessity for Claude to view the works in person.
The market for Picasso works continues to soar with collectors from around the world and a number of exhibitions each year.
Paloma, Picasso’s illegitimate daughter, has used her family name to market perfume and jewellery. Marina Picasso has sold reproduction rights to some 1,000 works by Picasso that she then owned.
To pay off the inheritance tax, the family donated 3,500 artworks, valued at $63 million, to the French government.
Considering the value of his work in both monetary and art-historical terms, many experts wonder why there hasn’t been a stronger effort to set up a centralized authentication committee composed of scholars rather than family.
Another issue is the lack of a definitive catalogue raisonné for the artist —and with reportedly no intention by the Picasso Administration to create one.
If Picasso had created a will his heirs would not have had to pay over $30 Million in legal fees and he could have directed his estate to people that he felt deserved it considering he famously fell out with many of his family members and friends.