Divorce in casa Dalí as Gala-Dalí Foundation and Spain seize control

State and Foundation cancel their contract with Descharnes, the artist’s former secretary and administrator of copyright


The argument over control of copyright of the artist Dalí’s works has taken a decisive turn. The Spanish State, universal heir to Dalí’s estate, and the Figueras-based Gala-Dalí Foundation, sole administrator of his estate, have cancelled their agreement with the Demart Pro Arte company headed by Robert Descharnes, the artist’s former secretary, which had managed and protected Dalí’s copyright since 1986.

The announcement was made by the president of the Gala-Dalí Foundation, Ramon Boixados, and the then director of the Bellas Artes, Madrid, José Guirao, (who has since been appointed director of the Reina Sofia), who represented the State on the Foundation’s board. The official reason given for the decision is “non-fulfillment of remit on the part of Demart”.

The affair has endured eight years of controversy and quarrels, during which there have been constant complaints about the total absence of income from Demart’s activity which, according to the artist’s will, should have been due to the Foundation. In addition, the Foundation has consistently been kept in the dark about Demart’s commercial activities. The administration of all rights on the artist’s estate, which were to be controlled by Demart until 2004 in virtue of a contract drawn up in 1986 between Mr Descharnes and Salvador Dalí, has now been assigned to the Gala-Dalí Foundation. It has not yet been decided whether the rights will be administered directly by the Foundation, or through an affiliated company.

According to the Foundation’s legal representatives, the original contract was worded so that it would cease on the death of the chief signatory (i.e. Dalí), an interpretation which Descharnes has contested; a lengthy legal battle may ensue. It is calculated that at least a hundred companies have commercial links with Demart, each of which will have to renegotiate their contracts with the Foundation.