The Telegraph’s Robert Colvile paints a sad portrait of Salvador Dali, his bankrupt and fraud-filled art market and Stan Lauryssens who entered the great man’s orbit:
When he enters the art world, Lauryssens knows little about his golden goose, except that Dalí means money. As the months pass, and he disposes of works of ever-decreasing quality for ever-increasing prices, he realises the Dalí market rests on a gigantic con: thousands of works are being certified that cannot possibly be by Dalí. In one instance, he buys a stack of prints from one of Dalí’s authorised dealers, only to discover that they are unsigned. When he returns the next day, Dalí’s signature is on every one. [ . . . ]
But the real Dalí is more pitiable – not just because of the crippled state in which Lauryssens finds him on their one meeting, but because of how he has become a prisoner of his greed and pathologies, to the extent that, according to Lauryssens, he would summon boys to masturbate in front of him and maintained a “secret studio” of artists who did virtually every work of his final decades. Even the moustache was a fraud: hair extensions wrapped around drinking straws.
It is sensational stuff, fantastic in every sense. And whether it is fact or fiction, it seems to capture two essential truths about Dalí: both his work and life could mean anything and everything, and that there is always a more astonishing story around the corner. Yet you still feel compelled to seek a proper biography. Lauryssens rushes through the story, adopting a self-conscious rollicking style that makes the book seem more like a pitch for a film than a documentary account – as Dalí said of his painting, the point seems to be “to be showered with a diarrhoea of gold, money and cheques”.