Considerations on Collecting: Referencing Albert Field's Catalogue Raisonné of Dali's Graphic Works
Dali is one of the most popular artists to collect, but he is also one of the most problematic. As Dali's popularity grew throughout the 20th century, numerous publishers created fraudulent works after the artist and sold them as being authentic works by Dali. Unfortunately, these still exist in the marketplace. Further complicating the situation, Dali was complicit in the sale of these works allegedly stating that as long as he got paid for the reproductions we would allow them to be sold.
So, how does one make sense of all of this? How do you know the print in your collection is authentic? Your guide should be Albert Field, the author of The Official Graphic Works of Salvador Dali. This catalogue raisonné, referred to as the "Bible" by some, splits the artist's oeuvre of prints into six distinct categories: original prints, cooperative prints, re-strikes, after prints, pastiches and counterfeits.
Original prints: Field uses this term to define a graphic work that has been executed entirely by Dali’s hand.
Cooperative prints: Field uses this term to define a graphic work that was supervised and approved by Dali.
Re-strikes: additional printings of an image beyond the original edition intended by Dali. They are referred to as re-strikes, because another artist must re-etch or re-engrave the plate.
“After” prints: prints that copy a work by Dali in a different medium.
Pastiches: works that are composed of several common vignettes found in Dali’s work, but have been completed by an unknown hand.
Counterfeits: imitations of original Dali prints that were created to intentionally deceive the public to believe they are authorized works.
Field suggests only buying those prints that can be described as an original or cooperative print. If you are interested in a print by Dali, a good place to start with your research is to find a copy of Field’s book and locate the work in it to determine which of these categories it falls under. The book is split into two sections: The Catalog and The Guide. The Catalog includes the acceptable original and cooperative prints, and the Guide includes any prints that are problematic. Search through the front section of the book to find your work. If you find it there it could be an authentic print. Great news! Now compare it to the information listed in the book. Ask yourself: Is the medium the same? Do the measurements line up? Is it numbered correctly? Is it signed by hand, or is there a printed signature? If anything seems off it might be an inauthentic print.
Even if you think you have a print that is “right”, you should still check to see if the work is present in the Guide since many prints exist in original and fraudulent states, and you want to be certain you have the right version.
It's important to note that this catalog was self-published by Field and a gallery, and I assume it did not go through a standard editing and proofreading process, because there are mistakes. An Errata page exists that corrects some of these. Make sure you have it.
Still confused by all of this? Entering Dali’s (and Field’s) world can often lead people to feel as if they have stepped into one of his Surrealistic paintings. There are some scholars who refer to themselves as Dali experts, and can issue authentication reports. I can also serve as a consultant, and research and advise you in growing your collection of Dali prints.
A disclaimer on my role as a consultant: A consultant is not an authenticator. While I can advise as to the legitimacy of a work, no consultation should be viewed as an authentication report.