Forty years after his death, experts are still having problems when it comes to authenticating Picasso’s works. His paintings are among the most expensive in the world. To avoid mistakes, four of his five surviving heirs have sought to clarify the process (they have excluded his eldest daughter).
Known for his fine works of art and also moody nature, when it came to authenticating his own work, Picasso would occasionally refuse to sign a canvas he had painted, saying; “I can paint false Picassos just as well as anybody.”
He refused to sign another piece of his work brought to him by a woman who had bought it. He explained to the woman, “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.”
On another occasion, an irritated Picasso angrily covered a work of art brought to him for his authentication. The artwork contained so many signatures that it was effectively ruined.
Even today, the question is raised of how his heirs can exercise their right under French law to efficiently authenticate his work.
When Picasso died in 1973, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world. About seven years after his death, there was a much debate over the settlement of his estate. In response, his appointed heirs established a committee to officially authenticate his work. However, in 1993 that committee deteriorated after arguments arose 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 complicated things, making the situation both time consuming and awkward.
Last September, four of Picasso’s surviving heirs circulated a letter announcing the establishment of a new way of authenticating works by the artist. The letter states that all requests for authentication should be addressed to Claude and specified that: “only his opinions shall be fully and officially acknowledged by the undersigned.” Among the undersigned, however, one signature was noticeably absent: that of Maya, the artist’s elder daughter.
Reportedly, the decision to appoint Claude as the sole authenticator was made in order to simplify the process and clarifications for the sake of the Picasso market.