Thursday, July 14, 2011

Avida Dollars and a Nation's Ruling

Salvador Dali, "Portrait of Paul Eluard" from 1929, set a world auction record for a Surrealist work of art at Sotheby's London, February, 2011.


As Spain has prevailed over the late artist's heirs in attaining the intellectual rights to Salvador Dali's estate of 15,000 works, so has the artist's own paranoiac-critical method succeeded, beyond the framework of art production and further toward a literally willed nationalist identity. This is Dali's victory. The Dali that returned to Spain in 1949, to spend his remaining years in his beloved Catalonia, passing over the criticism from progressive thinkers and many other artists against his choice to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco, for heartland.

Dali's work did fly against the conventional violence of his modern era. Against the philistine minds of mobs, fascist thugs, and anti-Semites, but he was also the self-made high champion of exclusivity. Of talent with a capital t and claimed genius. It would be Dali's ego and imperious values that would come to define him at large. He would turn increasingly toward Catholicism for conformist reasons, however ecstatic. He possessed a flamboyantly shrewd apolitical ideology, allowing Dali to define his entity more and more by nationalist terms as he found himself at odds with other artists and intellects over ideology.

While the majority of the Surrealist artists had become associated with left leaning politics - André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement - Dalí maintained an ambiguous position on the subject of the proper relationship between politics and art. Breton went so far as to accuse Dalí of defending the "new" and "irrational" in "the Hitler phenomenon." Dalí rejected this claim, saying, "I am Hitlerian neither in fact nor intention." Dali never appears to be a truly fascist sympathiser but he does display the views of a reactionist conservative. In 1934, Dalí was subjected to a "trial", in which he was formally expelled from the Surrealist group. To this, Dalí retorted, "I myself am surrealism." The final word here perfectly expresses Dali's autocratic fantasies. Later Breton coined the derogatory nickname "Avida Dollars", an anagram for Salvador Dalí, and a phonetic rendering of the French avide à dollars, which may be translated as "eager for dollars".

The Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 and officially ended with Franco's victory in April 1939, leaving 190,000 to 500,000 dead. The nationalist side was supported by Fascist Italy, and later by Nazi Germany, which assisted with the Condor Legion infamous for their bombing of Guernica in April 1937. Curiously, Franco is also famous for his apolitical record and being Catholic. Franco lost a lot of common ground with Hitler due to Hitler's propagation of Nazi mysticism and his attempts to manipulate Christianity, which went against Franco's fervent commitment to defending Christianity and Catholicism. His ascendency can be characterized as being driven by a duty toward power. With the fall of the monarchy in 1932 Franco rose to be a monolithic dictator with the same climate of derangement and liquidation as is apparent on Dali's canvases.

Fried Egg on the Plate without the Plate, 1932

On 22 November, 1975, two days after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was designated king according to the law of succession promulgated by Franco. King Juan Carlos oversaw the transition of Spain from a dictatorship to parliamentary democracy. In 1982, Juan Carlos bestowed on Dalí the title of Marqués de Dalí de Púbol in the nobility of Spain, hereby referring to Púbol, the place where he lived. The title was in first instance hereditary, but on request of Dalí changed for life only in 1983. To show his gratitude for this, Dalí later gave the king a drawing (Head of Europa, which would turn out to be Dalí's final drawing) after the king visited him on his deathbed.

On January 23, 1989, while his favorite record of Tristan and Isolde played, he died of heart failure at Figueres at the age of 84. He is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo in Figueres. The location is across the street from the church of Sant Pere, where he had his baptism, first communion, and funeral, and is three blocks from the house where he was born. In his will, Dalí designated the Spanish state as the only heir of his intellectual property rights, stipulating that the revenue should be divided between the national government and the Catalonian town of Figueres, his hometown and the place of his death.

Coming full circle in July, 2011, following decisions by the European Court of Justice and a Parisian district court, Spain has prevailed over the droit de suite — payments received by artists or their heirs when their work is resold in Europe — from sales of Salvador Dalí's artworks. Dali's living heirs have now lost the estate, and face making payments. So goes the victory to Dali's individual rights and to cunning national egoism.

Dali's will proved to be operating with time on his side, even in his death. Dali's posthumous achievement simultaneously discloses a philosophy for the supremacy of the individual and the supremacy of the state, with high regard for self-determination, ethical reasoning, and the soul's command over nature. The spoils go to a very fabulous artist-cum statist with grand romantic notions about the grace of god with Spain.

ARTINFO: A Surreal Legal Ruling Sends Salvador Dalí's Resale Royalties to Spain, Not His Descendants

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