When the Ukraine-born real estate mogul Dimitry Piterman opened a museum in 2016 to house his collection of hundreds of works by the Surrealist Salvador Dalí in Monterey, California, the community flooded in. More than 50,000 visitors happily paid the $20 entry fee to access the institution in its first year. Dubbed Dalí17, it is housed in an historic building in a town where the artist mixed and mingled in the 1940s—even throwing one of his famously absurd shindigs at the upscale Hotel del Monte, where he served Bob Hope fish in satin slippers during a fundraiser for refugees in Europe during World War II. The collection was billed as the largest trove of Dalí works on the West Coast, and the second-biggest in the U.S. after the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
But now Piterman and Dalí17 have landed in legal hot water, as the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí in Figueres, Spain, is suing the new museum over its use of an image of the artist’s famous, mustachioed face in its logo and gift shop items, and for reproducing images of works that the mogul does not own. The foundation, the sole heir to the surrealist master’s estate—controlling the artist’s work in Spain and governing its use and reproduction worldwide—is demanding drastic changes at Dalí17. The foundation wants to seize any profits the museum has made, shut down its website, take its domain name, and destroy any merchandise that was created with Dalí’s name or visage. It is also seeking unspecified punitive damages.
“Defendants have been informed that their conduct is unlawful, but remain undeterred and continue to advertise and provide goods and services infringing on the foundation’s intellectual property and publicity rights,” the foundation’s lawyers said, as quoted by The Art Newspaper. The publication reached out to Piterman and the Monterey History and Art Association (which controls the building where Dalí17 is housed), but neither have responded to a request for comment.