Dali has a last laugh in Russia

SCANDAL has hit an exhibition and sale of works by Salvador Dali. The moustachioed surrealist and his outrageous Russian wife, Gala, must be splitting their sides with malicious laughter from their heavenly clouds.

The Communist authorities viewed Dali as little better than a pornographer and in the old days, a postcard with one of his melting watches or giraffe-necked women was hot property on the black market. Not surprisingly, Muscovites are flocking to the exhibition and standing in line for hours to get in.

But it turns out not all the pieces in the show of graphics and sculptures are the artist's originals. This is disappointing for those who have queued but even more galling for newly rich Russians who have spent large sums of hard currency buying what they thought were genuine Dalis.

'It seems we were even less prepared for this kind of trick than we were for the crash of MMM,' said Yuri Skvortsov of the newspaper Kuranty. He was referring to the pyramid scheme in which millions of naive Russians invested money earlier this year.

Unlike past art exhibitions which were put on by the state, the show at Moscow's Central House of Artists has been organised by a private firm called Krimsky Val in co-operation with a German gallery. The head of Krimsky Val, Mikhail Cherepashentsem, said he trusted his German partners, who had provided certificates of authenticity for the works.

Tickets do, however, bear the warning: 'The organisers cannot be held responsible if the exhibition does not correspond with your expectations of it.' And a leading French expert on Dali has written to the Russian Ministry of Culture saying most of the exhibits are not originals.

Yesterday, art lovers who had queued for four hours, appeared to be enjoying themselves despite the fuss. 'I'm not expert enough to say what is real Dali and what is not but I'm fascinated by these nightmarish images,' said Irina, an English teacher.