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Peter Moore

Secretary to Dalí implicated in forgery of his works

John Peter Moore, art collector and businessman: born London 1919; married Catherine Perrot; died Port Lligat, Spain 26 December 2005.

The flamboyant businessman Peter Moore made his name, and subsequently became embroiled in scandal, as secretary to the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. Moore worked as Dalí's right-hand man for 20 years, accompanied him on his world tours, and became a pivotal figure in his colourful entourage. As Dalí became ill and bedridden, Moore assumed control over the artist's activities, and oversaw the mass production of his works that damaged Dalí's reputation. He was known as "Captain Moore", following service in the Army - when he claimed to have worked with Winston Churchill on secret wartime operations.

Scandal hit in October 2004, when he was convicted of reworking Dalí's 1969 painting The Double Image of Gala, and displaying it in his own gallery as a newly discovered work. The painting, one of many Dalí made of his wife and muse, Gala, had been stolen from New York's Knoedler Gallery in 1974 and the FBI and Interpol hunted for it in vain for years. Radically altered, chopped down and renamed Dalí Painting Gala, the painting was found in 1999 in the art centre that Moore ran jointly with his wife in Port Lligat.

Police seized the painting and searched Moore's home and workshops, where they found 10,000 faked Dalí lithographs. Moore was detained, but released because he was 85. He and his wife Catherine Perrot were convicted of "damaging the moral rights of the author", but a Spanish court took no further action because of Moore's age and his fragile mental state. The couple were instead ordered to pay some £670,000 compensation to the Dalí-Gala Foundation, which cares for the painter's legacy, and to pay for the restoration of the damaged painting.

Born in London of Irish origin, and educated in France, Moore lost his parents in a road accident when he was 14. He remained under the guardianship of a tutor until at 20 he joined the Army and became, he reckoned, a more confident person. After a distinguished wartime career, he left the service in 1946. By the Fifties, he was working in Rome for the British film company London Films under Alexander Korda. He first met Dalí in Rome in 1955. Korda was working on the film Richard III, starring Laurence Olivier, and wanted Dalí to paint a portrait of the actor in the title role to publicise the film. He sent Moore to Dalí to negotiate payment for the work, and the two men hit it off. Moore kept the oil painting for 45 years until the Dalí foundation bought it for $500,000 in 2000.

Dalí hired Moore as his full-time personal representative in 1964, and offered him 10 per cent commission on all business generated by the artist's graphic works. The pair launched upon an extravagant and glamorous life style - Moore liked to be photographed petting his tame ocelot - and Moore accumulated an important collection of the artist's works.

According to Dalí's biographer Ian Gibson, Moore felt pressed to earn his 10 per cent by exploiting to the full his talent for rapid business deals. "It was the beginning of a slippery slope, through which Dalí's reputation as an artist declined with alarming rapidity with his own consent," Gibson wrote in The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí (1997). Moore encouraged Dalí to authorise the mass production of lithographs, some sold as originals. Some carried forged signatures; others were blank sheets signed by Dalí on which lithographs were later printed. A thriving parallel trade in fake Dalí lithographs developed.

Moore insisted the works were genuine, but became embroiled in legal suits over alleged forgeries and unauthorised reproductions. "I have no need to make fakes," he once said. "I have all the original Dalís I could possibly want. This is all the result of envy." He later sold much of his collection. Many of the works were bought by the Dalí foundation; 400 were auctioned in Paris in 2003 for €4.5m.

Gibson, who knew Moore, described him as "great fun", but led astray by Dalí's avarice. "Dalí was cruel and heartless, immersed in his sleazy world, and everyone who ever worked with him got corrupted eventually," said Gibson.

Elizabeth Nash