Dali prints were created in different techniques: mostly etchings, but also engravings, woodcuts, lithographs and mixed-media. His graphic works were published either as individual sheets or as complete series or as portfolios or as illustrations in limited-edition books.
Information about Dali prints and other works have been collected for over forty years by Albert Field, director of Dali Archives Ltd, New York, with the approval of the artist. In 1994, Albert Field published The Official Catalog of the Graphic Works of Salvador Dali.
The catalog raisonne lists 1700 genuine and authentic graphic works. Albert Field groups them into original and cooperative prints. He defines original prints as those created by Salvador himself and cooperative prints as those supervised and approved by Dali.
The Great Dali Art Fraud
Until 1980 Dali prints sold extremely well. When the source of new prints dried out due to the artist's involuntary retirement, the fakes showed up on the market. In 1992 Lee Catterall published his book The Great Dali Fraud & Other Deceptions. Consequently several art publishers and dealers and a former secretary of the artist were arrested and convicted.
Bogus Dali prints were produced in different variations:
new print images that the artist had never made
prints "after" Dali paintings or drawings sold as originals
extended editions with forged signatures
restrikes or facsimiles with forged signatures
fake copies of real prints
For some editions, the publishers were allowed by contract with Dali to produce an extended edition. These extended editions were clearly differentiated from the first limited edition by a signature in the plate (sometimes in reverse and within the image). According to A. Field, Dali never signed unlimited editions.
The great master had caused some of the confusion himself by signing blank sheets on some occasions in order not to delay a publication due to his frequent shuttling between New York, Paris and Spain. Reports that Dali had signed between 40,000 and 350,000 blank sheets are rejected by A.Field as false rumors - spread intentionally by fraudulent publishers to cover up the fake signatures.
Fortunately the two paper mills that manufactured nearly all of the papers used for Dali prints, changed their watermark signs in 1980 by adding an infinity symbol. Thus most fakes can be identified quite easily. Prints that bear the Rives or Arches watermark with the infinity sign and have Dali's signatures, are fakes. Dali did not sign any prints after 1980.
Fake Dali prints continue to circulate in the art market. Many are now offered on the Internet. How can an art buyer protect himself against such fraud?
Collecting Dali Prints
Simply trusting established art galleries or auction houses is nice, but it is an insufficient protection. Incompetent or/and fraudulent art dealers can be found in crummy basement shops as well as in posh galleries and auction rooms.
Art professionals use reference books, called catalog raisonne, to identify the authenticity of an art work. For Dali prints two such reference books are available:
The Official Catalog of the Graphic Works of Salvador Dali, by Albert Field, 1996, published by the Salvador Dali Archives Ltd., ISBN 0-9653611-0-1
Ralf Michler and others, "The Catalog Raisonne of Etchings and Mixed-Media Prints, 1924-1980", and "Catalog Raisonne of Prints II, Lithographs and Wood Engravings"
Before you buy a Dali print, ask the seller for a copy from at least one of these two reference catalogs. As a serious art collector you should consider buying one for yourself.
The Dali prints market has taken great damage from the countless press reports about fraud and forgeries. Prices are on a level that make original prints affordable - even for prices below US$1,000. Equipped with the necessary information, some caution and common sense you can avoid becoming a victim of fraud. After having made sure that it is authentic, ask yourself one question: "Do I like this print and is it worth the price?" Take one day to think about it, and then make your decision.