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DISPUTABLE DALÍ SCULPTURES CONTINUE TO FLOOD ART AUCTION MARKET

Posted in Litigation Issues

A recent ARTnews investigative article highlights the ongoing legal actions and moral suasion initiated by the well-heeled Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation in an attempt to gain control of a prominent late artist’s legacy.  For many years now, as reported by ARTnews, the Foundation has attempted to police a "murky backwater" of the Salvador Dalí oeuvre:  "the production and sale of sculptures that were commissioned late in the artist’s life and continue to be cast and sold long after his death in 1989." 

This past June, the Foundation prevailed in a three-year lawsuit against Museo Dalí Escultor ("Dalí Sculptor Museum") in which the latter held a commercial exhibition of Dalí   memorabilia and late bronzes in Barcelona’s tourist area.  The court agreed that the Dalí "brand" was being misused by the space’s owner and customers were deliberately misled into thinking that the Museo Dalí Escultor was an official Dalí museum.  Although the Barcelona court’s decision is currently being appealed, the Foundation in the interim has moved forward with a petition to the court to shut down the Museo’s exhibition. 

The Foundation’s managing director, Joan Manuel Sevillano Campalans, believes that this recent action by the Barcelona court establishes precedent in demanding changes in the marketing tactics of other persons in the market who are "improperly exploiting the copyrights, trademarks, or images" of artist Salvador Dalí.
 
The art auction market for late Dalí sculptures continues to be affected by "misinformation, unauthorized editions, ownership disputes, and some outright fraud."  These sculptures also continue to flood the art auction market, including most recently at Sotheby’s, which, in addition to Christie’s, had effectively refrained from selling Dalí sculptures for an entire two year period.  Sales have recently picked up though, mostly at Sotheby’s, with some notable sales of Dalí bronzes last November.  Most of the auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s, will sell only Dalí sculptures cited in experts Robert and Nicolas Descharnes’ book, Dalí:  The Hard and The Soft, considered an authoritative reference on Dalí sculptures.  
 
In the meantime, disputable new Dalí sculptures continue to surface.  While it is unclear as to the origins of the new sculptures, one can easily find knock-offs of existing Dalí sculptures via the Internet.
 
The Foundation is tasked with the responsibility for the preservation of Dalí’s legacy by Spain as the late artist bequethed all his goods, rights, and artistic creations to the Spanish state.  The Foundation would like publishers to be clear about the works’ origins, but does not mind the late sculptures being sold.  There has been ongoing debate as to whether the Foundation should create a catalogue raisonné of the sculptures, but a decision has yet to be reached.