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Friday, June 19, 2009

Salvador Dali: The Reality of a Mass Produced Surrealist

Since Salvador Dali burst onto the art scene during the 1920s he has very rarely been out of the news. Each stage of his career has been well covered and commented on. From his outrageous appearance formulated during his early years as an artist to his later appearances in television commercials, Dali has very rarely passed up the opportunity to reach out to and shock the masses. Long after his death his art seems to appear everywhere and is permanently on display in most of the world’s best museums. The world’s curiosity with this bizarre artist continues, and hardly a year passes when a museum fails to produce a show on Dali’s artwork (most recently the “Liquid Desire” retrospective at The National Gallery of Victoria in Australia). His obvious emphasis on self-promotion coupled with the sheer abundance of his work make him as inescapable as he is collectible.

Born in Catalonia in 1904 and named after his recently deceased brother, Salvador Dali grew up with an atheist father and a Roman Catholic mother. These early childhood conditions left a deep impression on him, enabling his later artistic exploration of identity and contradiction. During his time at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid Dali met leading cultural figures including poet Federico Garcia Lorca and filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Becoming involved in the Spanish avant-garde and making films with Luis Bunuel, Dali eventually moved to Paris and became involved in the Surrealist movement. He is by far the most recognizable of the Surrealists today but also the most controversial.

A recent article that appeared on The Guardian website makes it clear that Dali walked a fine line between artistic expression and outright offensiveness. The article, written by Jonathan Jones, highlights George Orwell’s revulsion with his artwork because of its often shocking nature. Obscene as it was during Orwell’s time, the author concedes that middle ground has to be found between condemnation and outright praise. This objective and liberating view of artistic controversy is healthy and just as useful today as it was in Orwell’s day.

Traversing the minefield of fake prints in an era of mass forgery is not the type of controversy Orwell had in mind, however. Since the 1970s fake prints have flooded the market, turning even the largest auction houses such as Sotheby’s towards a much more careful treatment of such items. Due to the questionable nature of many Dali prints, many auction houses won't even work with them. Dali, due to his popularity and productivity, has been a key vehicle for art forgers. Because of this proliferation of fakes many will not even sell prints outside of their sets. Dali prints on the market are often mere copies of authentic prints, extensions of sets beyond the true limit, or prints of questionable origin with forged signatures. Horror stories of Dali prints bought on cruise ships or from galleries that have since disappeared are common place and serve as a warning to those who have or are thinking of acquiring such a piece. The great loses that collectors have incurred reinforce the importance of competent art consultants and appraisers to evaluate pieces that you have in your collection.

Notorious as it may be, authentic prints by Salvador Dali can also be quite beautiful. Dreamlike landscapes with images and figures that defy logic and science, the pieces spark the imagination as well as discussions of the nature and purpose of artwork. MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. has a handful of authenticated Dali prints in its collection, including an abstract bullfight scene, an avant-garde interpretation of a classic Spanish preoccupation. Bold and dynamic, colorful and frenetic, it is a testament to the energetic and innovative artist that everyone recognizes. Due to the prolific output of the artist, it is important to investigate prints of this nature to get a better understanding of what you are dealing with, whether it be an authentic print or a forgery.

-MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

(312) 814-8510


Bradley, Fiona. “Dali, Salvador,” in Oxford Art Online.

Jones, Jonathan. “Why George Orwell was Right About Salvador Dali,” in The

Guardian Online.

Phillips, David. “Salvador Dali Fakes,” at Fine Art Registry.

World Art: The Essential Illustrated History. London: Star Fire Publishing, 2007.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.