Eyes, sensibility, common sense, knowledge, experience are the best protection against a fake, and my definition of a fake is anything that pretends to be something it isn't." - June Wayne, co-founder of the Tamarind Institute quoted in The Print Collector's Newsletter, May-June 1972.
"If you like the damn thing, and you know what it is and you want to buy it and you want to spend two thousand dollars for it, I may think you're a horse's ass, but I'll also defend your freedom to do it." - Clinton Adams, co-founder of the Tamarind Institute, interview with Lee Catterall, author of The Great Dali Art Fraud & Other Deceptions, on December 2, 1987.
"Woe to you!" master artist Albrecht Durer declared on the title page of his series of woodblock prints, Life of the Virgin, in 1511."You thieves and imitators of other people's labor and talents. Beware of laying your audacious hand on this artwork."
Durer's stern warning did not bring an end to the menace of fine print fraud, nor did the series of prosecutions across the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. Warning: Most of the Dali fakes at issue in those cases remain in possession of victims who were unable to obtain refunds. Not surprisingly, many of the victims are trying to unload their "prints" on the Internet at outrageous prices. This activity is not illegal unless the prints are misrepresented. Use of the term "original print" to describe a mere reproduction of a painting may be legally insufficient as misrepresentation because of the changing practices of artists in the use of new technology. Consumers interested in purchasing fine prints should gain a familiarity with the medium before spending a cent on this garbage pile. To begin with, take a look at the Federal Trade Commission's 1994 warning about art fruad.
Don't be fooled by Dali's signature on a print. He signed thousands of blank sheets of paper that later were used to reproduce Dali images, usually paintings. More often, his signature was forged on such reproductions. He signed his name in so many ways that experts are at a loss in verifying an authentic Dali signature. Before buying any Dali print, also consider Dali's Abuses, which constituted overt participation more than mere facilitation, in the manufacture of hundreds of thousands "limited edition" prints bearing his name and his surrealistic images. While many of the paintings are authentic works of Dali, they have been reproduced in numerous "limited editions" and sold as "original" lithographs, etchings, etc. The painting most commonly reproduced for such fraudulent purposes was Lincoln in Dalivision, "prints" of which Los Angeles art appraiser Dena Hall testified in the Hawaii trial have become as commonplace as "pancakes at the pancake house." Other favorite Dali paintings used as models by the print fakers were Corpus Hypercubicus, Metamorphosis of Narcissus and Hallucinogenic Toreador. Dali assuredly did not participate in fraudulent prints bearing his name and images that were not his, which are referred to as "fake fakes" and are far less numerous than fakes based on Dali's actual paintings.
Since publication of The Great Dali Art Fraud & Other Deceptions in October 1992, law-enforcement authorities completed their effort at closing down a vast web of fraudulent operations of print sales. Specifically, these further developments have occurred, referenced here by parts of the book that are updated.
On November 24, 1972, A. Reynolds Morse, a longtime friend of Salvador Dali, sat forlorn at a table in his room in the Meurice Hotel in Paris, with the master in the room across the hall. "It is in that room precisely where all these abuses begin, a frightening thought," Morse wrote into his burgeoning journal. "There Dali receives his entrepeneurs, takes their money, hands them his watercolors and starts the Niagara of works on paper. The veneer of respectability of Dali's mass productions seems terrifyingly thin."
With the help of Morse, law enforcement authorities brought the massive fraud associated with Dali artworks crashing down in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as chronicled in The Great Dali Art Fraud & Other Deceptions, by Honolulu journalist Lee Catterall. Principles of Center Art Galleries-Hawaii and New Jersey publisher Leon Amiel, who were exposed by Catterall in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the 1980s, could claim ties to Dali and his entourage, but that did not lessen the fraud. Which is not to say that all the bogus prints that flooded the Dali market in the 1970s and 1980s bore Dali's imprint, at least directly. Without question, he committed abuses to enrich himself from his fame, and those abuses opened the way for others to capitalize on the cesspool he had created. Dali was proficient at printmaking, but most of his prints were etchings, and he engaged little in lithography, a medium he disdained "for aesthetic, moral and philosophical reasons." Dali's original lithographs have been assembled by archivist Albert Field and are listed as an appendix in Catterall's book. Others bearing his signature - forged or not - are mostly reproductions of Dali's drawings or paintings. Field has compiled Dali's involvement in virtually every project involving his name; the fact that Dali may have "authorized" a production of prints has no bearing on their originality or lack thereof.
Dali's first departure from ethical conduct in printmaking probably occurred in the early 1950s, when he executed a series of 106 watercolor paintings for the Italian government for Dante's Divine Comedy, to be later reproduced as woodblock prints. By the early 1960s, Dali had decided to create no more original prints. Robert Descharnes, his personal secretary in later years, said Dali told him, "I prefer now to dedicate all of my confidence to mechanical reproductions." In 1974, Captain John Peter Moore, Dali's personal secretary at the time, arranged for Dali to produce 78 illustrations for tarot cards to be reproduced into editions of 250 "lithographs." The publishing contract was won in a poker game by New York book publisher Lyle Stuart. A contract dispute followed in which Dali agreed to sign 17,500 blank sheets of paper for the tarot prints that had yet to be produced. According to Stuart, owner today of Barricade Books, publisher of Catterall's book, Dali actually lost count and signed an additional 3,000 sheets. Stuart said he sold those 3,000 to Leon Amiel, a New Jersey publisher of art books who later would be revealed as the world's largest manufacturer of fake prints attributed to Dali, Chagall and Picasso.
Captain Moore was supplanted as Dali's personal secretary in 1975 by Spanish photographer Enrique Sabater Bonany, who established Dalart Naamloze Vennootschap, or Dalart NV, in the Dutch Antilles, Dasa Ediciones and Dasa NV, which were used to grant rights to reproduce Dali paintings. Establishment of the companies allowed Dali to receive payments for both the sale of a painting and granting of reproduction rights, with Sabater receiving commissions for both.
Hamon, a Paris graphics dealer, was the big recipient, acquiring rights to more than 50 Dali images on behalf of his company, Arts, Lettres et Techniques. The images were to be reproduced in limited editions of 900, with 20 artist's proofs. Some of Hamon's contracts stated that Dali was to certify authenticity with a stamp bearing his thumb print, the artist presumably being too ill to sign the thousands of prints involved. The thumb print, reproduced in bottom right hand corner of each page of this site, would be "the equivalent of his signature," according to the contracts.
So how many blank sheets of paper did Dali sign for use in the fraud? In 1985 after his falling-out with Dali, Captain Moore estimated the total at 350,000. In March of that year, El Pais quoted Dali as acknowledging having signed blank sheets, but not as many as Moore contended. "The figure is incredible, because it would have been physically impossible for me to do it," Dali was quoted as saying. Dali signed his name in so many ways that experts say it is impossible to determine with certainty whether a "Dali" signature is his or not. The most compelling argument that the number of presigned sheets is small is that a simple Dali drawing that could fetch thousands of dollars could be produced in much less time than the span in which he could have signed very many sheets, and Dali was not one to take the least lucrative path.
In Dali's mind, the signature may have been the least important ingredient to determine authenticity. The French art publisher Jean-Paul Delcourt, a signatory to some controversial Dali prints, tells about acquiring a dozen "Dali" lithographs from an American publisher and reselling them to an English dealer. The Englishman complained later than Enrique Sabater had declared them to be fakes, and a customer wanted his money back. The American publisher refused to do so because he had certificates of authenticity. Delcourt says he saw Dali at the Meurice Hotel and showed the prints to Dali and Gala.
"Dali whispered into Gala's ear, and Gala repeated his statement to me: 'Dali says the picture is good, the signature is good, but the work is a fake,' " Delcourt recalls.
"Why is it a fake?" Delcourt asked.
"The answer: 'Dali has not been paid.'
"This is the guiding thread of the entire affair," Delcourt says.
"In all the contracts signed between Dali and various publishers, Dali never attached any importance either to moral rights or to the authorization to print. All he wanted was money."
From 1980 through 1982, while Sabater was becoming more distant from Dali, Jean-Claude Dubarry, who owned a Barcelona modeling agency that had supplied models for Dali, entered the scene and arranged contracts that brought in $1.3 million for reproductions rights. According to Descharnes, publishers who acquired the contracts included Jean-Paul Delcourt of Art Graphics International and Editions d'Art de Lutece in Paris; Klaus Cotta, an importer of television programs and movies in Barcelona; Rudolph Hugerie of Heidelberg, Germany; William Gelender of Paris; Beniamino Levi of Milan; Jacques Jacut of Paris; Carlos Galofre of Spain; Leon Amiel and Parisians Henri Guillard and Gilbert Hamon. Dali's wife Gala and Captain Moore signed a contract on October 22, 1981, agreeing to provide 15,000 presigned sheets to Hamon, 3,500 to Cotta, 9,500 to Galofre and 7,500 to Paris art distributor Jacques Carpentier. Pierre Marcand, a French art distributor who later was successfully targeted by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, claimed to have bought 13,060 presigned sheets from Galofre for $520,000.