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PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN


Shortly after the 1987 broadcast of CBS News’ 60 Minutes telecast about abuses in the Salvador Dali market I had an eye-opening experience. I had taken the story to the network and then worked closely with Mike Wallace and his producer to put the program together. I had hoped it would alert art buyers to the extent of fraud in the market, but was not free to appear on-air because I was also serving as the prosecution’s expert witness in the trial of Ron and Kurt Caven of Shelby Fine Arts. They had forty-three galleries around the southwest and eventually plead guilty to selling a vast number of fake prints attributed to Dali.

I was generally satisfied with Wallace’s report, but soon found out that it had not had the effect I had hoped for.

On a visit to a gallery that heavily advertised its offerings of Dali prints, I was at first pleased to find that a monitor in the main gallery room was showing the 60 Minutes segment. When it ended, however, the dealer, a smarmy character in sharkskin suit and diamond pinkie ring, walked over and addressed the small crowd that had been watching.

“That really frosts me,” he said with feeling. “We work our butts off doing the right thing and selling only the best and guys like that taint the whole market because they get greedy.” His lack of articulation as he continued was remarkable. I left the gallery soon after satisfying myself that fully two thirds of the “Dali” prints he was offering were fakes.

I was reminded of the scene in The Wizard of Oz in which the dog Toto pulls back a curtain to reveal that the “Great and Terrible Oz” was actually the humbug carnival balloonist from Kansas. The Salvador Dali market has been the playground of many such imposters.

A WORD ABOUT COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG

It is not uncommon for a posting on this blog to be followed by my receiving comments which I rarely post. Why? They usually consist of two types. There are those which fully agree with me and blast the same rotton apples that I try to counter, but have decided not to attack here because it just results in their ranting at higher volume. Many of this type of comments come from a very well-informed and articulate Dali scholar in Germany.

The second type are trash talk. This blog will be reserved for the truth and for credible information.