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Why is Salvador Dali’s Art Expensive?

Updated on September 26, 2017

Even for those who know little about art, Salvador Dali’s work is instantly recognizable. For example, even if the name Persistence of Memory doesn’t ring a bell, almost everyone has seen this iconic landscape strewn with melting pocket watches. In addition to his technical brilliance, Dali displayed a larger-than-life persona that fed contemporary fascination with him as a person as well as an artist. This combination of celebrity and talent fuels interest in Dali’s art to this day, and helps to explain why his artwork fetches top dollar in the marketplace.

Born in 1904 in Spain, Salvador Dali showed artistic talent at a young age, which his family encouraged. After experimenting with multiple styles of art as a student, he became affiliated with the Paris Surrealists in the 1920s. His art from this period, influenced by the theories of Sigmund Freud, explored subconscious imagery from his own dreams and hallucinations, and includes many of his best-known works. During this time, he created his own technique for tapping into the subconscious, which he called the “paranoiac critical” method.

His flair for controversy began at a young age. He was first suspended (accused of promoting a student insurrection) and then later expelled (for refusing to take examinations) from art school. In the 1930s he was expelled from the Surrealist movement, although it is not clear whether this is because of political disagreements with the group, the group’s annoyance over his flamboyant public antics, or a feud with the group’s founder Andre Breton. Throughout his career he was given to exaggerated public theatrics, which served to enhance his reputation as an eccentric genius. He was a forerunner of artists like Andy Warhol, whose personas and environment are as much a part of their art as their actual artist works.

Salvador Dali - Chevalier
Salvador Dali - Chevalier | Source

Although Dali is best known as a painter, his work included efforts in many different mediums, including filmmaking, writing, sculpture, printmaking, fashion, and advertising. Throughout his career he continually explored new sources of inspiration, from religious imagery to scientific discovery, and his output was prolific until 1980, when a tremor in his hand forced him to retire from painting. He passed away from heart failure in 1988, at the age of 84. However, controversy has followed him even in death—in July of 2017 his remains were exhumed to allow DNA testing for a paternity suit alleging that he fathered a daughter in the 1950s.

Salvador Dali - Christian Knight
Salvador Dali - Christian Knight

Whatever his personal notoriety, Dali’s works have remained popular to this day for their fine execution as well as their exploration of unsettling themes. Some of his best-known paintings have sold for millions of dollars—fortunately for collectors of more modest means, his artwork is readily available in high-quality limited edition prints as well. His enduring popularity ensures that demand for his work will continue to be high.

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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      13 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I knew little about Salvador Dali, so I've learned a lot about him from reading your article. Thanks. =)

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