Three Dali films were written, revealing just how much Hollywood loved Dali stories decades after the painter’s death. The first film to appear was Little Ashes (2008), a biography starring Robert Pattison about Dali’s avant-garde teen years in 1920s Madrid. The film centred around his sexually ambiguous friendships with the poet Frederico Garcia Lorca and aspiring filmmaker Luis Buñuel.
The 2nd film, Dali, was to be directed by British film-maker Simon West, and to star Antonio Banderas as Dali, with Catherine Zeta-Jones as his hot wife Gala. It would explore how the painter conquered America and the world with sex, sin and surrealism, only to succumb later to world wide scandal and misfortune. But was the film produced?
The third and most controversial film, Dali & I: The Surreal Story, came from a 2008 book by little known Belgian art dealer, Stan Lauryssens (born 1946). His book alleged that most of Dali’s works were faked and were done so with the artist’s approval. This sent shock waves through an art world which was long used to strange Dali stories.
Dali & I: The Surreal Story, 2008
by Stan Lauryssens
In Spain, where Dali was a national hero, Lauryssens’ book caused outrage. This was apparently because A] Lauryssens portrayed the artist and his wife Gala as two insatiably charged lovers who regularly shared in orgies with famous actresses. But I wasn’t sure about the outrage - rather I thought the Spanish would semi-admire Dali’s exotic sex life. B] Lauryssens told how he sold thousands of fake Dali paintings and how Dali approved of the fake-Dali industry
The Salvador Dali Foundation, which controls Dali’s estate, vigorously denied many of the claims made in the “Dali & I” book, and threatened to sue Lauryssens. When the book, which has been translated into 33 languages, was released in Spain, the Foundation said: The contents of “Dali & I” lack the most minimal credibility and were only part of a promotional campaign for the book and the film. Of course Hollywood was going to be attracted to this shocking book!
Long before he entered the fake art world, Lauryssens had been involved in many other dodgy activities. He later moved into journalism where he pretended to interview a host of Hollywood celebrities for a Belgian magazine. In 2 years he had fake-interviewed every major Hollywood star, including Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando.
In 1972 Lauryssens turned his attention to Salvador Dali. He made up a great story about how Dali and Walt Disney were working on a cartoon together. That story caught the attention of a shady investment group in Belgium who assumed Lauryssens was a Dali expert and hired him as a fine art dealer. So, at just 25, Lauryssens found himself flying around Europe buying up Dali paintings, despite having no prior experience in the world of fine art.
Lauryssens thought that some Dali’s less popular stuff was distasteful to look at, so it was very hard to find buyers. Eventually he was introduced to some of Dali’s entourage who said the best money could be made in selling fakes because they were the items that tended to have his most popular elements, like the melting clocks. The more he indulged in fake Dali works, the more Lauryssens uncovered a world where fake prints, sculptures and lithographs were created by the people closest to Dali. In fact probably 75% of all the works attributed to Dali were not done by him.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Salvador Dali was able to churn out thousands of artistic pieces - paintings, sculptures, prints, lithographs and photographs. And from the 1960s on, the fakes were clearly with the painter’s alleged approval since Dali needed a truckload of cash each month to fund his lavish lifestyle. In any case, Dali readily admitted he had made enormous sums of money by signing hundreds of quick sketches and lithographs which would then sell for huge profits.
Persistence of Memory, 1931
by Salvador Dali
a surrealistic image of melting pocket watches, at MoMA.
In the early 1980s, before his prison stint, Lauryssens moved next to Dali in his seaside villa in Catalonia. The dealer said that Dali had lost his hair, his stomach was swollen and his limbs shaking. It was all a far cry from the flashy showman.
Yet the surrealist's work must have been a hot commodity for shady businessmen, looking to launder their cash. After all, when Dali died from heart failure in 1989, his estate was worth a huge $87m!