BECOMING “THE MAN” FOR DALI
The other day I called the woman who was my secretary for six years back in the 1980s to wish her a happy birthday. While talking about those times, she reminded me of the day about 1982 when I was trying to do research for two prints attributed to Salvador Dali and made an important decision. The graphics had been brought to my office by a woman from Anchorage. She had bought them while on vacation in Hawaii and wanted to know what she had. She didn’t totally trust the sales hype at Center Art Gallery in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. (US v. Center Art Galler-Hawaii was later on of my biggest cases)
After spending a couple of weeks doing research, I was just where I always was with Dali prints. I had the expertise to determine how they had been printed, but there just didn’t seem to be anyone who really knew what was real and what was not. The market sources and publishers all claimed ignorance or stonewalled me. Colleagues, museum personnel, art scholars and others knew nothing and all anyone would say was, “That’s such a can of worms I’d advise you not to start digging. It could be dangerous.” I had been warned off many times. Frequently it was suggested that organized crime was involved in the market.
On that fateful day I said to Suzanne, “I’ve been trying to find a good source of information on Dali print authenticity for two years and there just isn’t anyone who knows enough. Everyone says the market’s a terrible mess, there are masses of fakes and some of the players are very dangerous. Not even the Dali Museum is any help. I think I may have found a niche that I should try to fill. I think I could become The Man for Salvador Dali art.”
That’s when I really started pursuing the topic and finding everyone I could who had known the artist (who was a recluse and probably a prisoner at that time) and accumulating a library of every printed source I could find. By 1987 I knew enough to start serving as the only expert witness available for the Federal and state prosecutions that kept me very busy through 1992. In 1987 I also did the first appraisal of the collection of The Salvador Dali Museum.
While there are today numerous others who claim to be Salvador Dali experts, I believe I am still at the top of the heap having examined more works than anyone else, traveled extensively, had the advantage of access to the files of galleries, publishers and distributors who were defendants in the court cases, knowing most of the players both good and bad and always being independent and disinterested.
It’s been a great career. I’ve met better characters than I could make up for a novel, I continue to accumulate information almost daily, and I’ve found out first hand that indeed there are many unsavory and dangerous people involved, even today, in the Dali market. I’ve been smeared online, sued, threatened and hassled. I have, in other words, been a real threat to those who don’t play it straight.
Since that fateful day in 1982 I’ve frequently said, “If they have to make up lies to attack me, I must be doing something right.” I know what it is. It’s always following my motto of:
If a person has integrity, nothing else matters. If a person does not have integrity, nothing else matters.