Salvador Dalí

Spanish royal seal of approval for Dalí’s Florida home

Meanwhile in Europe, the artist’s foundation battles “pseudo museums” to protect his brand

The opening of a major new building to house the world’s second largest collection of works by Salvador Dalí was accompanied by joyous celebrations in the small Florida resort town of St Petersburg. Designed by the French-American architect Yann Weymouth of HOK architects, the $36m structure features a dramatic staircase and lava flow-like glazing that starts on the roof and wraps itself around the building, echoing the glass dome at Dalí’s Theatre-Museum in Spain.

Florida’s Dalí Museum houses the collection built up by a Cleveland-based couple, Eleanor and Reynolds Morse, and donated to St Petersburg in 1982. All the art is on the third floor, well above any possible danger from hurricane-induced flooding. The collection includes 96 paintings and more than 2,000 prints, drawings and other material, estimated to be worth $500m-$700m.

As a sign of the significance of the event held at 11.11am on 11 January 2011, the youngest daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, Infanta Cristina, cut the ribbon to open the museum.

In her speech she referred to the role of the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation in Figueres, Spain, of which she is a trustee, in defending Dalí’s heritage. Its executive manager Joan Manuel Sevillano Campalans, who also attended the inauguration, spoke to The Art Newspaper about the foundation’s ongoing efforts to manage the estate and protect what he calls the Dalí “brand”.

Sevillano Campalans, who comes from a business background and was appointed 11 years ago, says he spends much of his time dealing with copyright infringement and reproduction issues. “Up to half of my time is spent on legal matters,” he said. The foundation employs a full-time lawyer and retains 12 major law firms.

“There’s confusion in the Dalí sculpture market,” said Sevillano Campalans, adding that the foundation has been “trying to bring transparency” by battling fakes, fraudulent reproductions and taking on what he calls “pseudo-museums”, which show non-authorised prints and sculptures and which he says are run for commercial gain. “In many cases marketing concepts have become confused with artistic rigour,” he said.

Brand infringement

While the foundation initially tries to negotiate with these “museums”, it goes to court if this fails. In Berlin last year a German court ruled that “Dalí-Museum Berlin GmbH” and its domain names infringed the foundation’s registered brand names; the firm was ordered to stop using the names, and most costs were awarded to the foundation (an appeal is pending). Another case is the “museum-gallery XPO Salvador Dalí” in Bruges; Sevillano Campalans says there are “preliminary legal contacts” with the entity.

“Sometimes [the museums] have gone well beyond the terms of the original contracts,” says Sevillano Campalans. “We’re not trying to kill their business, but we want them to remain within the limits of what Dalí intended.”

The foundation is also active in battling outright fakes; currently in court in Barcelona is an action following from a 2009 seizure of 81 works which were about to go on sale in Estepona, Spain. In Israel, the foundation has brought actions against VS Marketing (and others), for non-authorised reproductions of Dalí’s 1961 “Auca” drawings. More cases are expected in the US, says Sevillano Campalans.

Sevillano Campalans points to “voracious demand” for Dalí works in China and India, and fears the “banalisation” of his work will sap the market and destroy the brand. “This is not just a problem of Dalí but of all creators, and I wish that other artists’ estates would be as proactive as we are in defending their artistic legacies; this is a growing and global problem,” he says.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 221 February 2011