Dali Prices Surge at Auction!

The landscape of the Dali market is changing forever.

With Top Quality Offerings, Sotheby's Nets $181 Million

By Paul Chimera
Publicity Director of the
Original Dali Museum of Beachwood, Ohio

In the early 1970s, LIFE magazine published an in-depth article on Salvador Dali's success as a world-renowned artist. It was titled "Dali's Dollars."

Nearly 40 years later, Dali and dollars continue to complement each other quite well. Recent auction sales are very strong evidence that the long-awaited surge in Dali prices may finally be upon us. Just like several years ago when his contemporary, Andy Warhol's prices rose dramatically in a short period of time, Dali seems poised to make his move. The Dali market is now enjoying an up-tick nearly as pronounced as his upturned mustache.

Work on paper sells for 9 times high estimate

Dali:"Girafe en feu" (Giraffe on Fire)

Take, for instance, what occurred on November 4 at Sotheby's in New York. Salvador Dali's 1937 gouache, "Girafe en feu" (Giraffe on Fire), 22-1/4 in. by 30-3/8 in., went on the auction block with an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It brought an astounding $1,870,000. It was not only a record for any work on paper by the Catalan master, but sold for an astounding 9 times its expected price, indicating that even the professionals underestimate the willingness of Dali collectors to back up their passion with their pocket books.

To see the Sothebys auction, click here.

It was a shining star in a galaxy of bright financial news at Sotheby's, which saw its 56 paintings, drawings and sculpture fetch a staggering $ 181,000,000.

A small Dali oil painting sells for 1 million over estimate

Dali: "Nu dans la plaine de Rosas" (Nude on the Plain of Rosas)

Meanwhile, a day earlier at Christie's, a minor1942 Dali oil on canvas, "Nu dans la plaine de Rosas" (Nude on the Plain of Rosas) just 20 inches square was estimated in the range of $2,000,000 to $3,000,000. When the auctioneer's gavel fell, the final price tag was in excess of $4,000,000. Helena Rubinstein would have been proud, as this little work was created by Dali at the same time he was painting large wall murals for the cosmetics queen's fashionable New York City apartment. This small painting bore so many similarities to the large mural that many consider it to be a study.

To see Christies auction, click here.

Just for comparison purposes, in 1987, Dali's gigantic "Battle of Tetuan" nearly 14 feet long set an auction record at that time for the Surrealist, when it brought $2,400,000. Today a work of less importance fetches nearly twice that much! The landscape of the Dali market is changing forever.

Why the surge?

Indeed, it seems a golden period has now emerged for the greatest of all Surrealist artists, as we see Salvador Dali's popularity and prices rise sharply, but why now?

I deferred this question to Joe Nuzzolo, President of The Salvador Dali Society.

"There have been continuous museum exhibitions since the Dali Centennial in 2004. The Philadelphia show in 2005 broke attendance records. 'Dali and Film' was around for over a year and traveled from The Tate Gallery in London to The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, then up to MOMA in New York. There have been Dali exhibitions in Istanbul, Turkey; Shanghai, then most recently an exhibit in Melbourne, Australia, which was attended by over 300,000 people. Dali is without a doubt the most popular artist of his time," Mr. Nuzzolo said.


Albert Field and Joseph Nuzzolo, 1992.

What he left out was the fact that there is a Dali exhibition in the works for the High Museum in Atlanta and even talk of one in South Korea. In short, the appreciation of the great master is spreading seismically. Dali is being recognized as a man of boundless ideas whose creative innovations remain far ahead of the times. The critics have embraced him and the buyers are following.

What do these prices mean to the Dali collector?

If you were one of the lucky few who bought a watercolor on paper from the The Salvador Dali Society in the past years for between $150,000 and $300,000, then you have every right to rejoice. The equity in your art has taken a considerable jump.

Still most collectors are holding Dali signed prints that cost much less. I wondered if all this attention would help the print market. Once again I posed this question to the man who has sold over 10,000 authentic Dali works and hundreds of drawings and paintings - Mr. Joseph Nuzzolo. Here is what he said:

"The price increases usually trickle down through the mediums. It is not a coincidence that 'Giraffe' sold for 9 times its estimate the day after the Dali oil sold for $1,000,000 over the estimate. Once oil paintings increase out of a certain range, investment minded buyers turn their attention to works on paper knowing they will soon follow. Now that works on paper are running up, we can look to the hand-signed graphic editions to have their turn. If you look in your rear-view mirror you will see that the same thing happened with Andy Warhol and not very long ago." Nuzzolo said.

Dali Museum Exhibits Prints

In regard to the hand-signed prints, Mr. Nuzzolo may be on to something. The medium is now getting royal treatment. In fact, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg Florida is opening an unprecedented exhibition.

Beginning November 13 and running through April 18, 2010, it will feature some 80 exquisite, rarely viewed pieces from the museum's vault, including prints.

The Dali Museum - St. Petersburg, Florida.

One unique dimension of the Dali Museum exhibition will be a separate gallery dedicated exclusively to the Dali's prints, "Alchemy of the Philosophers," whose creation took over four years. They were in the personal collection of the late Dali Museum founder and benefactor, Reynolds Morse (his widow, Eleanor still survives him today). "Alchemy" entails 10 original, magnificently colored dry point etchings with lithography, decorated with precious and semi-precious stones illustrating, as one publication put it, "alchemists' writings on the transmutation of base metals into silver and gold." Such recognition is sure to bring considerable investment capital into the Dali print market.


Dali once declared "I love money, I pursue it gallantly, daringly, uninhibitedly, because it allows me to do what I want, to scorn the critics, to balk at the tides, to charge like the bravest of bulls." This time, money is pursuing Dali, and as for the bulls, they are certainly charging in the right direction. P.C.

Joe Nuzzolo
The Salvador Dali Society®
888-888-DALI (3254)
310-937-3999 (outside US)


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