When Entrepreneurs Foul Their Nests
These lithographs "were pulled in 1981-2 using plates created from Salvador Dali's maquettes, and are offered now for the very first time," the letter read. "Each is individually numbered, and each bears Dali's personal signature in pencil beneath the art."
Buried deep in the mousetype of the brochure was this incendiary line:
" … The Arches Paper sheets were signed by Salvador Dali before the lithographs were hand-pulled, numbered and custom framed."
In March 1985, a huge story exploded in The Wall Street Journal describing how Dali found that he could get $40 for his signature on a blank piece of print paper. He would sit for an hour at a time and sign his name every two seconds for a haul of $72,000 an hour. It is estimated that Dali signed between 350,000 and 400,000 sheets of paper.
Art entrepreneurs would then license an image from Dali's manager, Robert Descharnes, buy pre-signed paper and create editions of "signed and numbered Dali lithographs."
It may be that our lithograph does indeed have Dali's real signature—although forgeries abound. But in the world of limited edition lithography, this is out-and-out fraud.
Salvador Dali is probably the only artist in history who destroyed the value of his oeuvre out of pure greed. Today, no one knows what is a real Dali and what is not. But that does not matter to Dali, who has been dead since 1989. What's more, his reputation as an artist is solid, even if he was a crook in business.
Takeaway Points to Consider
- Where Dali was a known nut case and insatiable self-promoter, Thomas Kinkade's situation is different. The aura of decency and godliness that he has lovingly created over the years has been sullied by questionable business practices and inexcusable personal behavior. This in turn has jeopardized the network of some 200 independently-owned galleries—in effect, franchisees—whose owners' livelihoods and futures are entwined with his. In addition, devout Christians that own his paintings and hear about what happened may never again experience the same pleasure in a Kinkade work of art.