Picasso and Citroen

An Artist, a Car Manufacturer, a Goddess, and a Mystery.The artistic genius of Picasso makes a pit stop in the world of automobiles, et voilà, a journalist's car is transformed into a four-wheeled masterpiece. The car in question is a blue Citroën DS19, which, with lines more elegant than a dish cooked by Massimo Bottura, became Picasso's canvas.To understand better, the DS, which won the award for best industrial design at the 1957 Milan Triennale, was voted in 1999 as the best design object of the 20th century (not exactly one of the ugliest cars ever). Due to its shapes, it soon became known as the "Shark," or "Tiburon" in Spanish, sometimes called "pescecane" (shark), occasionally "tartaruga" (turtle), or even "ferro da stiro" (iron), but for us, it is "the Goddess."
But let's go in order.One day in 1958, Manuel Mejido, a Mexican journalist, arrived on the French Riviera intending to interview Picasso, a task he knew to be impossible since the artist had been exiled by dictator Franco. At Picasso's villa, "La Californie," the journalist arrived in a borrowed Citroen DS and represented himself as from the Spanish Republican Center of Mexico, an organization that helped many refugees during the Spanish Civil War. The trick worked, and Picasso granted the interview.
However, midway through, the artist excused himself. Curious as a five-year-old, he went to the car and used it as a canvas. The resulting artwork depicted a family with flowers and a tree. Picasso also signed the painted car, officially making it his own. The Mexican journalist realized the financial potential, bought the car for 6,200 francs, and resold it to a Paris gallery for six times the price.
But wait, there's more suspense here than in an episode of True Detective. The car vanishes! Where did it go? Perhaps it's disguised among the artworks in a museum or taking a break along the French Riviera. The journalist suspects that Picasso's work is in the hands of a collector who jealously guards it. Since its purchase by the Paris museum, the car has not been spotted or photographed.This happened 66 years ago.
More recently, in 1999, the car manufacturer Citroen paid Picasso's heirs a handsome sum for the permission to name the Xsara-based minivan after the great painter, sparking the indignation of the then-director of the Picasso Museum, Jean Claire, and many other art experts opposed to the "commercialization" of the name and signature of the Spanish genius.
Of course, the 1999 Xsara Picasso was not as elegant and refined as the DS19 on which the artist had painted, and neither were the Citroen Picassos that followed. I can't imagine Brigitte Bardot or Jackie Kennedy at the wheel of the Citroen C3 and C4 Picasso like they were with the Citroen DS, which enchanted them with its sleek line, swiveling headlights that improved night illumination on curves, sunroof, and hydropneumatic suspension.But as is known, "the Goddess," as it was nicknamed by its creators playing on the perfect assonance, in the original language, between the acronym "DS" (literally "Désirée Speciale") and its French pronunciation "déesse," meaning goddess, will remain one of the most iconic cars ever. Flaminio Bertoni, the artist who designed it, will be remembered as a visionary.
Back to our story, the odd couple of Picasso and Citroën reminds us that art can literally drive on the road. Sometimes aesthetics and innovation merge to create an automotive experience that goes beyond what's under the hood. So, get comfortable, fasten your seatbelts, and get ready for an artistic journey in a world where cars are more than just means of transport—they are true works of art in motion!
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