Pablo Picasso's heirs are riding a fad for "crypto" assets that have taken the art and financial worlds by selling 1,010 digital art pieces of one of his ceramic works that have never been seen publicly before.
Picasso's granddaughter, Marina Picasso, and her son Florian Picasso opened up their apartment in an upscale Geneva neighborhood in an interview before the formal launch. There, they provided a thrilling sneak peek of the piece behind what they're billing as an unprecedented fusion of old-school fine art and digital assets.
They're hoping to capitalize on and ride a surge of interest in so-called non-fungible tokens, which have garnered millions for lesser-known artists while being criticized by some as environmentally damaging get-rich strategies.
According to his family's promoters, Picasso would usher in a Grand Master.
A fungible token is an asset that can be exchanged one for one in economic terms. Consider dollars and bitcoins: both have the same value and can be freely traded. A non-fungible object, on the other hand, has its own distinct value, such as an antique house or a classic car.
NFTs are created by combining this concept with blockchain technology. They are essentially digital certificates of authenticity that can be tied to digital art or pretty much any other digital item — audio files, video clips, animated stickers, or even an online news article.
"We're attempting to build a bridge between the NFT world and the fine art world," said Florian Picasso, the artist's great-grandson.
The artist's descendants are playing close to the vest to generate interest and protect a family heirloom. They're only displaying a sliver of the bottom part of the work associated with the NFTs, a ceramic piece about just the size of a large salad bowl. The exposed areas have forms such as a thick yellow line, a dribbling green splotch, and a brushed-on number "58" at the base.
Marina Picasso claims the prized pottery piece was made when she was a child in October 1958. "It's a work that depicts a face and is very expressive," she explained. "It's joyful, joyful. It's one of those objects that has been a part of our lives, our intimate lives — my life with my children."
In March, Sotheby's will hold an auction featuring a one-of-a-kind NFT and the actual ceramic bowl. Florian Picasso explained that they chose the colorful ceramic piece as a "fun one" to begin with.
An NFT Picasso carries almost important historical symbolism, much like when the Beatles collection was finally made available on iTunes. According to the family and its business managers, the goal is to create a younger community of Picasso fans.
"Everything is changing," said Florian Picasso, insisting that the NFT honor the great artist.
"I believe it fits within Picasso's legacies because we are paying tribute to him and his way of working, which was always creative," he explained.
How inviting it must have seemed when Picasso, legend has it, would plainly doodle on a napkin as payment for a restaurant meal, his work allegedly worth far more than the cost of the food and drinks he had consumed.
Some of the funds raised will be donated, with one portion going to a charity to overcome a nurse shortage and another to a nongovernmental organization to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.