Dalí’s former secretary Descharnes fights back against governmental meddling in estate rights

“The Spanish State cannot cancel a private agreement which is valid until 2004”


Robert Descharnes, president of Demart Pro Arte, the company which until recently administered all rights to the work of Salvador Dalí, has issued a statement in response to the cancellation of the rights agreement by the Spanish State, and the Gala-Dalí Foundation (See The Art Newspaper, No. 41, October 1994, p. 3).

As expected, Robert Descharnes—Dalí’s former secretary—does not intend to let the matter rest. “It is a manoeuvre on the part of the Spanish State, intended to despoil the legitimate rights of an upright, and moreover foreign individual; an act contrary to the law currently in force in Spain. It is a deplorable situation, and while Demart is still open to serious and constructive dialogue, we have decided to maintain our freedom of expression and action.”

In his statement Mr Descharnes recalls that on 13 June 1986 Salvador Dalí granted to Demart “all remaining rights on his estate up until 19 February 2004, the date on which those same rights were to be returned to the Spanish State”. He also states that on 19 February 1987 the transfer of these rights was recognised by the Spanish Minister of Finance.

In anticipation of a “harmonious passage of consignment of the rights on the foreseen date”, Demart began last year to engage in contact with the Spanish State “for closer collaboration in administering the rights and in anticipation of the return of those rights to State control.” According to Descharnes, the State and the Gala-Dalí Foundation “unilaterally and without notice” interrupted negotiations, claiming that the transfer of rights to Demart should have been forfeited on the death of the artist in 1989.

The president of Demart contests this interpretation: “Only the desire of Dalí himself should prevail,” he responds. “The artist signed a private contract, in which the State was not in any way involved.” While he denounces the shady manoeuvres of politicians not only from within the Ministry of Culture itself, he also declares that the cancellation of the contract “compromises all the activities of Demart since 1986 in the battle against fraud and misuse of rights” which have prejudiced Dalí’s work. Descharnes’ decision to contest the agreement’s annulment is only the second chapter in the “tumultuous inheritance of the most famous Surrealist”. From now on it will be in the law courts that this battle is played out.