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Dali Wrap Up May 13, 2006

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Home.

I found a picture of the Dali print that I owned, later destroyed in a flood.  This version is signed, mine was not.  It's entitled "Ginni Schicchi's bite".  I only found this out today.  The certificate that came the one I bought had the title in Italian.  The other one is "The Reign of the Penitents".  Thank you INTERNET!  In fact here's a site that has all of them.

Ginni Schicchi's bite

In the gallery I worked at we had a couple Salvador Dali shows.  All of his paintings are in private collections or museums and have been for many years.  There are, however, many etchings and prints still available.  Even some sculptures.  And they are available for fairly reasonable prices, as art goes.  The reason for this has to do with Mr. Dali himself.

After the jump is the rest of the story.

Salvador Dali died in 1989 after living a full and active life of 84 years.  He pretty much worked until the very end.  In fine surrealist form, he managed to create a scandal a few years after his death.  Dali's wife, Gala, died in 1982, and after that his health went into a decline.  Dali worked on many commissioned projects and was paid handsomely in advance for them.  Considering his health, people were concerned about him suddenly dying, and leaving them on the hook for unauthenticated artwork.  Dali, to keep the work coming in agreed to pre-sign a bunch of unprinted papers to be used to create prints later.  This was a sort of "insurance policy".

This requires a bit of an explanation.  Usually artists who do a limited edition run of prints only sign, date, and number the prints in pencil after they have been printed.  This is the artist's way of saying "Yea verily this is my work, and there shall be only this many of them."*  Dali, by doing this if he suddenly died while working on a project, or shortly after, the people who paid him could still do their print runs on signed papers.  This is VERY important.  The full retail price of my two unsigned, unframed prints is around $500.  The retail value of ONE signed, unframed version of either of my two prints is around $2000.  Signed and numbered limited editions of etchings done by the master himself generally command several thousands of dollars each.  Lots of money at stake.  During his final years, Dali did several of these deals.  Unsurprisingly, there were quite a few signed, unprinted sheets around when he did go meet the great Surrealist in the Sky.  Equally unsurprising was the fact that some unscrupulous art dealers got their hands on a bunch of them.

What they did was to have some of his existing work re-done as lithographs, printed on those precious singed papers and then sold publicly for large sums of money.  This was fraud, pure and simple.  This fraud was later exposed and many people who paid large sums of money for "an authentic Dali print" now had something that was, well, not worthless, but certainly not nearly worth what they paid for it.  This made the art-buying public very shy about buying Dali prints, of course.  This greatly depressed sales and prices too.  All of the fake stuff has been identified and no gallery today would dare to offer them, but the taint is still there to some degree, and as such the prices aren't as high for his printed artwork as it would have been. 

So there ya go.

*Well, usually there will be some additional ones that are printed up as "Artist's Proofs".  These are generally not numbered and simply have an A.P. written instead.  These are the the very first run of a few copies (generally 5 to 10).  The artist checks them over for quality and consistency before giving the approval for the full run.  The artist can keep, give away or sell them as he or she wishes.  Indeed, you will often know a series is about to be closed out if an A.P. is offered for sale. 



1. kevlarchick - May 14, 2006

I wonder who Ginni is.

2. Enas Yorl - May 14, 2006

That’s what I get after writing all that?


When writing “The Divine Comedy” Dante often included local people and events. The whole sordid story regarding Schicchi is here.

3. Muslihoon - May 14, 2006

Fascinating story about Schicchi.

Although I must admit I don’t understand the painting. I’m more of a flower and vases painting type of guy. Or Mona Lisa. Without Dan Brown.

Thanks for the explanation of signed art and fraud and all that! Very enlightening.

4. geoff - May 15, 2006

I’m not quite following the insurance process. How did this “insurance” process work if Dali died before finishing his original (i.e., what good were the signed papers unless you used them on an old print run?)? Or did he just sign them when he delivered the original?

Seems like a term life insurance policy would have been more straightforward.

5. kevlarchick - May 15, 2006

Enas, when you write about art, I do not ask questions. I just read and believe.

I thought Ginni might have been his lover who liked to bite or something.

6. Enas Yorl - May 15, 2006

Muslihoon, I understand. Surrealism is a mixed bag of pickles. Generally, nothing is quite what it seems, unless it’s exactly what it seems. Don’t worry, we’ll get into some more traditional stuff too.

Geoff, even if he died before he finished, they could still print up what he did and still sell them. What can I say? Dali wasn’t a straightforward kinda guy.

Kevlarchick, I was kinda curious too so now we both know!

7. elzbth - May 15, 2006

The Schicchi story is quite funny.

What do you think of as traditional stuff?

8. Enas Yorl - May 15, 2006

A very insightful question Elzbth! Even as I wrote the word “traditional” in the context of a discussion about Art I knew I was getting into a very “iffy” area.

Twice I started to get into long, rambling responses, but I’ll boil it down this: Art has a long history with breaking with it’s own traditions, but when the Impressionists set up shop in Europe in the 1870’s some very long standing traditions were not just broken, but shattered. Art has never been the same since. I’ll put up a post expanding on this point later.

9. Muslihoon - May 16, 2006

You know so much about art. And so skillfull. I’m surprised you’re not gay.

10. elzbth - May 16, 2006

progidously skillogroful.

Or something like that.

11. geoff - May 16, 2006

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

12. geoff - May 16, 2006

That’s weird, I didn’t think I screwed up the HTML in that comment that badly. Let’s try it again:

Muslihoon says:
I’m surprised you’re not gay.
and geoff attempts to quip:
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Now let’s see if that works…

13. geoff - May 16, 2006

Hmmm… italics trouble. Let’s try some closing.

Did it work?

14. elzbth - May 16, 2006


How did Muslihoon come by this information, anyway?

15. Enas Yorl - May 16, 2006

Ahem. Let me head off anymore speculation along these particular lines. I am not gay. I was an Art Major in college for a few years, a student assistant for the head of the Art department while in school for a year and a half, and I worked at a very upscale gallery here in Las Vegas for a couple years. So, yeah it’s not terribly surprising I know stuff about art.

Thanks for the compliments, and thank you for checking in! I’ll have another post up in a bit.

16. Muslihoon - May 16, 2006

I was just kidding, I hope you know. πŸ™‚

Still…I’m very impressed with your knowledge of art, and I hope to learn a lot more!

17. geoff - May 17, 2006

OK, one last question on the paper-signing business. I swear I’m not normally this obtuse. Why is the post-death signed printing of one of his works (acknowledging the fact that it’s not the one he meant to sign) worth less than the pre-death printing? Did they violate the limited-print arrangements? I still don’t get why a legitimate signed Dali print is different that a signed Dali print of something he didn’t intend to sign. Is it just that he didn’t authorize it?

18. Enas Yorl - May 17, 2006

Geoff, you’re like a dog with a bone! πŸ˜€

Okay, let me see if I can explain this better. There’s a popular artist living today named Leroy Neiman. He’s getting on in years as well. His original paintings are very expensive, so he will often put out limited edition print versions of some of them at greatly reduced cost to the public. Let’s say an art dealer commissions a work from Leroy with a print run of the work too. Let’s say Leroy agrees, but demands his price up front. The dealer, concerned with Leroy’s advanced years demands that Leroy sign a bunch of sheets up front, so if Leroy kicks it before the painting is done, they can still print up what he did and sell to the public limited edition prints of “Leroy’s Last Great Unfinished Work.” This would be legitimate. If they decide instead to go run limited edition print versions of some of his other paintings, that would then be fraud. It is this latter case that happened with Dali. They printed up stuff he never authorized. They are not legitimate works.

I hope that clears this up!

19. geoff - May 18, 2006

So it’s the artist’s blessing on the use of his signature that makes the difference? I can see where the posthumous printing would be unsavory, but I wouldn’t have thought it would affect the value that much. I guess the art world is more ethical than I thought. [Not that I thought they were any more unethical than anybody else.]

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