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Estate Approves ‘Picasso’ Car

January 26, 2000

PARIS (AP) _ Pots and pans in China, underwear in Southeast Asia, trucks in Chile, and now, a car from France. Hard to believe they’re all Picassos.

In name only, of course. The Paris-based Picasso Estate, which represents the artist’s heirs, spends millions yearly fighting the illicit use of what is arguably the most famous name in 20th century art.

Which is why many French were shocked when the Estate gave its blessing _ for a price it refused to reveal _ to the new Citroen Xsara Picasso, a snappy, high-sitting town car billed as practical and fun to drive.

Putting the name to the car ``is a strategic decision designed to prevent other companies from stealing the name and using it,″ said Claudia Andrieu, the Picasso Estate’s legal adviser.

``It’s the family’s approach to battling fakes,″ she said in a telephone interview. ``A do-nothing attitude leads to exploitation.″

Some purists, however, are horrified by what they see as crass commercialism.

``Assimilating genius with a mass-produced consumer item is scandalous,″ wrote Picasso Museum director Jean Clair in the daily Liberation.

Clair said he was offended by Citroen’s latest ad campaign, which depicts a tough-looking museum guard restraining a visitor from touching a nude bather in Picasso’s ``Figures au bord de la Mer″ (Figures At the Shore).

The visitor then is presented a Picasso he CAN touch _ the new Xsara.

Clair said the ad ridiculed the Picasso Museum, belittling the guards as they try to protect its priceless collection of Picasso masterpieces.

Comparing the museum employees’ meager salaries to the hefty royalties earned by Picasso’s heirs, he went on to question the family’s motives for ``selling their father’s name even though their fortune appears to have sheltered them from need.″

The Picasso Estate represents the interests of Claude and Paloma Picasso, the children of Francoise Gilot; Maya Picasso, the daughter of Marie-Therese Walter; and his grandchildren Marina and Bernard Picasso, born to the artist’s son, Paul.

Andrieu said the family was not offended by the ad, and stood by its partnership with Citroen.

About 15 companies manufacturing products ranging from lighters to candles have bought the rights to the name, but thousands more use it illegally, Andrieu said.

``There are underwear and inflatable dolls in Southeast Asia, trucks and spare parts in Chile, mobile homes in Britain, and thousands of products in China alone,″ she said.

She said the family, with the notable exception of designer Paloma, who has developed her own line of beauty products and home furnishings, had no intention of turning Picasso into a brand name.

Andrieu said the family chose to work with Citroen because of the company’s long-standing image of excellence in design.

``We’re better off with a partner of our choice where we have a say in things,″ she said.

Citroen says polls showed that people associated ``creativity, invention and modernity″ with Picasso.

``Our polls show that name recognition for Picasso is enormous, and that’s what we wanted in launching the new model around the world,″ said Citroen spokesman Frederic Lepeytre.

The new Xsara Picasso also is more affordable than the real thing. Models cost between $19,600-$25,000.

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