Salvador Dalí was a controversial artist and public figure in life, and even more so in the afterlife. He – or rather the Spanish state, his sole heir – was embroiled in a decade-long case in which a woman was claiming to be his heir (she wasn’t), culminating in his body being exhumed for a paternity test, moustache inexplicably intact. And now there’s more: another (admittedly less bizarre) controversy concerning the rights to his name and imagery.
Dalí17, a Monterey, California museum exhibiting real-estate developer Dmitry Piterman’s 500-piece Dalí collection, has been sued by the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, who control the artist’s intellectual property rights for the Kingdom of Spain. The Figueres-based foundation objects to Dalí17’s logo – a sketch of the surrealist’s face with signature twisted moustache – and its use of his name on its website, social media, and merchandise. “As a result, the Foundation’s extremely valuable reputation is being irreparably damaged,” the Foundation claims.
Among its 500 pieces, Dalí17 features Dalí’s etchings, lithographs, and sculptures such as the iconic Mae West lip sofa, and documents his and his wife Gala’s time spent in the city during the Second World War. Obviously, this drew a lot of popularity when it opened in July 2016, pulling in more than 50,000 visitors in its first year. Still, The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí say it has no authorisation to use the artist’s name (or, in fact, some of the art its showing).
And what does the Foundation want? Well, it’s not holding back: it wants Dalí17 to destroy any merchandise or promotional material bearing Dalí’s name or image, damages, any profits the museum’s made, and court fees. It also wants dali17.com, the museum’s web domain, which would effectively wipe it off the map.