Spanish police are seeking the owner of a £1.1m bronze elephant, possibly sculpted by Salvador Dalí, that was stolen with a major haul of work purportedly created by the mustachioed master of the so-called paranoid-critical method.
The three-metre-high elephant was impounded with 81 works that had been on display at a hotel in the southern Costa del Sol region. It was not clear whether the pieces were stolen, genuine or fakes.
The works, which included sculpture, bas reliefs, lithographs, textiles, furniture and cutlery had been transported to the hotel in Estepona from France and were due to be auctioned there. The asking price for the elephant sculpture, believed to be a work known as the Space Elephant, was €1.2m (£1.1m) .
Police said they were investigating reports from around the world that up to a dozen pieces similar to those on display had been stolen. The robberies had been reported in the United States, France, Belgium and Spain. An unidentified Frenchman was arrested and charged with fraud and faking documents, they said.
The French surrealist poet André Breton once observed that Salvador Dalí's name was an anagram for "avida dollars". He said it was an apt nickname for a man obsessed by money who would flood the market with mass-produced pieces.
The resulting confusion about what is, and is not, a genuine Dalí has helped forgers mass produce even more works that have nothing to do with the Catalan artist.
"The immense majority of the [impounded] pieces are fake," a police official told the Associated Press. But officials said they would be asking the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, in his home town of Figueras, north-east Spain, to authenticate the impounded works of art and say whether the serial numbers matched those of stolen pieces.
Several of the works found by police were originally produced in series of 100 or more. Versions of two of them, a silver on bronze rhinoceros sculpture and a sculpture called Christ of St John of the Cross, can be found for sale at internet art galleries for little more $2,000 (£1,400) each. Meanwhile metre-high versions of the Space Elephant are being advertised by one online gallery in the US at $40,000.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016