Psychic Wins Court Battle to Have Salvador Dalí’s Body Exhumed in Paternity Suit

The exhumation could happen as early as next month.

Salvador Dali, 29th December 1964. Photo by Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Salvador Dali, 29th December 1964. Photo by Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

A Spanish psychic has won the right to have the body of Surrealist giant Salvador Dalí exhumed as part of a paternity suit. To call this latest development in the two-year-old lawsuit surreal is an understatement.

The case stretches back to March 2015, when Pilar Abel, a tarot card reader and astrologist from Gerona, Spain, filed a paternity suit in Madrid claiming to be the artist’s daughter. (She sued the Spanish state, to which Dalí left his estate, and the artist’s foundation, also based in Spain.) If Abel’s claim is proven correct, she could be entitled to a sizable portion of the artist’s estate.

The June 20 ruling by a Madrid judge paves the way for the Spanish artist’s remains to be exhumed from his burial place in Figueres, Spain, allowing for DNA tests that might conclusively validate Abel’s claim. The exhumation could happen as early as next month, according to the BBC. The artist’s foundation plans to appeal the decision.

Abel previously conducted DNA tests a decade ago using hair and skin from the artist’s death mask, but the results were inconclusive.

Abel’s mother served as a domestic aide to a family who frequently vacationed in Cadaqués, where Dalí also maintained a residence. According to Abel, the two met and had an affair. At the time, Dalí was married to his muse, Gala, with whom he had no children. Abel says that the affair took place in 1955. She was born in 1956.

Abel says that her mother told her repeatedly, including in the presence of other people, that the artist was her father. The pioneer of the Surrealist movement died in 1989 at age 85.

Reached for comment, a spokeswoman from the artist’s Figueres-based foundation, said in a statement: “The Dalí Foundation is preparing an appeal to oppose this exhumation that will be lodged in the coming days. Our internal legal team, together with the Roca Junyent, S.L.P office are working on this appeal in coordination with the State Attorney.”

Meanwhile, some Dalí experts remain skeptical of Abel’s claim. Nicolas Descharnes—who has co-authored research and books on the artist with his father, Dalí’s former secretary—told the Spanish news agency EFE in 2008 that there was “no relationship between this woman and Salvador Dalí.” (After the artist’s death, the elder Descharnes, who died in 2014, served as the administrator of the artist’s copyright.)

The findings will have major financial implications. If her claim is proven correct, Abel “could be entitled to a 25 percent share of his estate, estimated to be up to €300 million,” or $336 million, as reported by the Telegraph. According to the artnet Price Database, Dalí’s auction record is $21.7 million, set in 2011 for his Portrait of Paul Éluard (1929).


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