Are you my surreal dad? Dalí to be exhumed in paternity case

Salvador Dalí's remains are to be exhumed on Thursday from his Spanish hometown in an effort to test a fortune teller's claims the renowned surrealist is her father.

Are you my surreal dad? Dalí to be exhumed in paternity case
Pilar Abel believes she is the daughter of the artist.

The artist's body is buried in the elaborate museum of his work Dalí designed himself in the northeastern Spanish town of Figueres, where he was born over 110 years ago.

Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old who long worked as a psychic in Catalonia, says her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Port Lligat, a tiny fishing hamlet where the painter lived for years.

If Abel is confirmed as the only child of Dalí, she could be entitled to part of the huge fortune and heritage of one of the most celebrated and prolific painters of the 20th century.

The Salvador Dalí Foundation had tried to fight off the exhumation with an appeal, but there was not enough time for all parties to present their case, a court spokesman told AFP.

Barring some “administrative or logistical surprise”, the exhumation will go ahead, he said.

READ ALSO: Six surreal facts from the life of Salvador Dalí

Authorities will begin removing the over one-tonne slab covering the tomb of the eccentric artist, who died in 1989 with no known child heirs, after visitors have cleared out for the day from the Dalí Theatre-Museum.

Experts will take DNA samples in the form of bone or tooth fragments directly from the grave where Dalí was buried and they will then be sent to Madrid to undergo the necessary tests.

Abel has already provided a saliva sample for comparison, with results expected within a matter of weeks, said the woman's lawyer Enrique Blanquez.

Dalí and Gala

The museum, a major tourist site that drew over 1.1 million visitors last year, will be covered in some places with cloth to prevent drones from capturing images of the exhumation.

In an interview with AFP last month, just days after a court ordered the exhumation, Abel said her grandmother first told her she was Dalí's daughter when she was seven or eight years old, and her mother admitted it much later.    

Abel is from the city of Figueres, like Dalí, and she said she would often see him in the streets.

“We wouldn't say anything, we would just look at each other. But a glance is worth a thousand words,” she said.  

Notoriously eccentric, Dalí's life was marked as much by the genius of his work as by his own extravagances.

A question has always hung over his sexuality, with some claiming he was a closet homosexual who preferred to watch others having sex rather than taking part.

But according to Blanquez, his affair was “known in the village, there are people who have testified before a notary”.    

READ MORE: Did Salvador Dalí father a secret love child?

Photo: AFP

Born on May 11, 1904 in Figueres to a bourgeois family — Dalí's father was a legal clerk — he developed an interest in painting from an early age.    

In 1922 he began studying at the Fine Arts Academy in Madrid, where, despite being expelled twice, he developed his first avant-garde artistic ideas in association with poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the filmmaker Luis Bunuel.

Soon he left for Paris to join the surrealist movement, giving the school his own personal twist and rocketing to fame with works such as “The Great Masturbator.”

Returning to Catalonia after 12 years, he invited French poet Paul Eluard and his Russian wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova to Cadaques.  

It was love at first sight between Dalí and the woman to whom he gave the pet name Gala.

She became his muse and remained at his side for the rest of her life and died in 1982. The couple never had children.

By Benjamin Bouly Rames and Adrien Vicente / AFP


Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.