Estate of the art (Part 2): Bernard Ruiz Picasso on his grandfather’s rich legacy

When a great artist dies, those left behind are faced with complicated choices. What will happen to their lifetime of works? To their studio spaces? And what about the more intangible aspects of their legacy? While some heirs hire experts, others take it upon themselves to keep their dear-departed’s house in order. According to the kids and grandkids of these world-famous artists, there’s a certain measure of pride involved in taking care of a loved-one’s artistic legacy, despite the difficulty in escaping from from its far-reaching shadow.

The full feature was originally published in The Second Best edition of the magazine.

Pablo Picasso left a legacy richer than most. His grandson Bernard is one of five remaining family members looking after it

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

As a child, I wasn’t aware of my grandfather’s importance. My parents didn’t glorify him at all, though he wasn’t as appreciated then as he is today. He was a great grandfather. We often went to visit him in his house at the French Riviera where we would all go swimming in the sea. He believed in the strength of children and took us seriously. We could feel it. We never saw him paint, though. He was very secretive about that. He carried around the key to his studio in his pocket. He was born in the 19th century and didn’t believe in telephone or mail, so his son delivered messages for him. That was when Franco was still alive and he was quite involved politically. Before Franco died, people called my grandfather a communist, an anti-christ and a pornographer, but I didn’t really understand what those things meant. Sometimes other children would make mean comments in school. He knew we would all become very rich upon his death, but left it up to us what to do with the heritage. And because we have a rather complicated family history, the whole inheritance process took a few years. It was only in 1981 that everything got sorted out. Marina and I took on the task of taking care of part of his legacy at quite a young age. He didn’t make an official will but some things were clear: he wanted Guernica to go to the Spanish government when it became a real democracy, and that his private collection, which contained artworks by Matisse and Cezanne, would be donated to the French government and shown in the Louvre. There are now five of us taking  care of his estate: my two aunts Paloma and Maya, my uncle Claude, my half-sister Marina and his last wife’s daughter, Catherine. Each of us received a part of the estate. We have a family office in Malaga where we take care of certain issues that touch us all, like copyright, for example but we are very independent from each other. For example, when a museum organises an exhibition it contacts us all separately. We don’t have conflicts. It would be silly to feel overshadowed by my grandfather’s name. I’m proud and feel very lucky to be part of this family and I see my heritage as a great opportunity. I have embraced it. I have also created a Picasso foundation together with my wife, who herself owns a gallery. The foundation not only takes care of Picasso’s legacy but also supports young artists. I get the chance to look at great artworks and meet fantastic people. And I’m financially stable, which is not always the case for artists’ estates. Most of my time is spent taking care of conservation, framing, shipping, photographing works or entries in catalogues. Loaning artworks requires a lot of administrative work. It takes a lot of my time. Most of my time, actually. It was my own conscious decision to dedicate so much time to his legacy. I never thought about not doing it, but it was definitely a big step to say: “From now on I will spend most of my time looking at Picasso’s works, reading about him and trying to understand his oeuvre.” I feel a responsibility to maintain his art and legacy to the best of my ability. Art is a necessity of the human race and I am happy to dedicate my life to it. Nowadays everyone loves Picasso and his work, but people don’t know that much about him. His name has become a brand in a way, but that’s how our society functions: people speak about great artists as if they’re products, but they’re not. I feel it is my job to make the right information about Picasso and his work available.

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