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Picasso’s descendants to sell more than 1,000 NFTs linked to never-before-seen ceramic work

Marina Picasso, granddaughter of artist Pablo Picasso, and her son Florian Picasso pose with a ceramic artwork of Pablo Picasso in Cologny, Switzerland, on Jan. 25. (Boris Heger/AP)
correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly said, based on information reported in the Associated Press, that the NFTs would go on sale at an auction hosted by Sotheby’s in March. The digital art pieces will still be available for purchase but not through Sotheby’s. The article has been corrected.

Descendants of Pablo Picasso are planning to auction off more than 1,000 digital pieces representing a never-before-seen ceramic work by the Spanish artist in what they have described as an attempt to integrate the worlds of fine art and crypto assets.

Art (and blockchain) enthusiasts will soon be able to buy digital assets known as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, for short, linked to a ceramic piece from October 1958, Marina Picasso, the artist’s granddaughter, told the Associated Press.

Marina Picasso and her son Florian Picasso, who live in Geneva, hope to introduce their ancestor — one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and a pioneer of cubism — to the crypto trend sweeping the art world.

Will NFTs transform the art world? Are they even art?

“We’re trying to build a bridge between the NFT world and the fine art world,” Florian Picasso told the AP in an interview published Wednesday.

An NFT is a unique digital representation that certifies authenticity. It’s recorded on a blockchain, a digital database of time-stamped transactions that is meant to be impossible to change, hack or corrupt. NFTs provide proof of ownership and create scarcity by drawing a distinction between copies of a work from the “original” digital versions.

Purchasers will not own the Picasso ceramic or own the rights to images depicting it: They will be buying digital tokens of which there are limited copies, which the artist’s heirs are hoping will accrue value in their own right.

NFTs have caused a stir in the art world, with entrepreneurs and financiers predicting they will change how art is valued and upend the market for digital art. They’ve already generated millions of dollars for some artists. Last March, a digital collage by a South Carolina artist known as Beeple sold for $69 million — the third-highest-ever price for a work by a living artist. NFTs also allow digital creators to collect royalties each time an artwork changes hands.

The latest NFT sale to make global headlines: An auction next month of Beatles singer Paul McCartney’s original notes for the hit song “Hey Jude." Julian Lennon, one of John Lennon’s sons, on Tuesday announced the details of the sale, in which buyers will be able to purchase a range of Beatles memorabilia as NFTs.

Some art experts are skeptical of the digital tokens, noting that they constitute a financial mechanism rather than an artistic medium and require huge amounts of electricity to produce, making them bad for the environment. Critics say they could amount to a trend or bubble, assigning value that could collapse sharply without the assurance of material objects to back them.

Picasso’s heirs are minting tokens based on a ceramic piece made when Marina Picasso was a child that has never been displayed publicly.

The ceramic is "a work that represents a face, and it’s very expressive,” she told the AP. “It’s joyful, happy. It represents life. ... It’s one of those objects that have been part of our life, our intimate lives — my life with my children.”

She and her son have only revealed a small portion of the underside of the ceramic that shows a yellow line, green forms and the number “58” below. The NFTs will come with music compiled by Florian Picasso, a DJ and music producer, and songwriter John Legend and rapper Nas, the AP reported.

Marina Picasso is the daughter of Paulo Picasso, the artist’s oldest son and only child with his first wife, Olga Khokhlova. After the artist died in 1973 without a will, Marina inherited one-fifth of his estate — including about 10,000 works of art. She has since sold some of it, including many ceramics.

In an interview with the Guardian in 2015, Marina Picasso described her relationship with her celebrity grandfather as troubled.

“We had a very hard life, living in close to misery. He never gave us as much as a sketch, although he gave sketches to his hairdresser or cleaner,” she said of her grandfather’s conduct when he was alive.

The physical ceramic piece will also be available as a conventional art purchase at auction, the AP reported. A portion of the proceeds from the NFT sale will go to a charity that aims to address a nursing shortage and to a nonprofit that works to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

Read more:

What is an NFT, and how did an artist called Beeple sell one for $69 million at Christie’s?

Will NFTs transform the art world? Are they even art?

Artificial intelligence is restoring lost works by Klimt, Picasso and Rembrandt. Not everyone is happy about it.

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