Are you my surreal dad? Salvador Dali to be exhumed in Spanish paternity case

People walk around Salvador Dali's tomb inside the Teatre-Museu Dali (Theater-Museum Dali) in Figueres, north of Barcelona, Spain July 13, 2017.
People walk around Salvador Dali's tomb inside the Teatre-Museu Dali (Theater-Museum Dali) in Figueres, north of Barcelona, Spain July 13, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

FIGUERAS, SPAIN (AFP) - Salvador Dali's remains are to be exhumed on Thursday (July 20) from his Spanish hometown in an effort to test a fortune teller's claims the renowned surrealist is her father.

The artist's body is buried in the elaborate museum of his work Dali designed himself in the north-eastern Spanish town of Figueras, where he was born over 110 years ago.

Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old who long worked as a psychic in Catalonia, says her mother had a relationship with the artist when she worked in Cadaques, a picturesque port where the painter lived for years.

If Abel is confirmed as Dali's only child, she could be entitled to a slice of at least 25 per cent of the huge fortune and heritage of one of the most celebrated and prolific painters of the 20th century, said the woman's lawyer Enrique Blanquez.

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The Salvador Dali Foundation had tried to fight off the exhumation with an appeal, but there was not enough time for all parties to present their case, a court spokesman told AFP.

Barring some "administrative or logistical surprise", the exhumation will go ahead, he said.

Authorities will begin removing the over one-tonne slab covering the tomb of the eccentric artist, who died in 1989 with no known child heirs, after visitors have cleared out for the day from the Dali Theatre-Museum.

Forensic scientists will take DNA samples in the form of bone or tooth fragments directly from the grave where Dali was buried and they will then be sent to Madrid to undergo the necessary tests.

Abel has already provided a saliva sample for comparison, with results expected within a matter of weeks.

'VERY HAPPY'

The museum, a major tourist site that drew over 1.1 million visitors last year, will be covered in some places with cloth to prevent drones from capturing images of the exhumation.

"I just want to know the truth. I am very positive, very happy," Abel told reporters at a Madrid hotel on the eve of Dali's exhumation.

In an interview with AFP last month, just days after a court ordered the exhumation, Abel said her grandmother first told her she was Dali's daughter when she was seven or eight years old, and her mother admitted it much later.

Abel is from the city of Figueras, like Dali, and she said she would often see him in the streets.

"We wouldn't say anything, we would just look at each other. But a glance is worth a thousand words," she said.

Notoriously eccentric, Dali's life was marked as much by the genius of his work as by his own extravagances.

A question has always hung over his sexuality, with some claiming he was a closet homosexual who preferred to watch others having sex rather than taking part.

But according to Abel's lawyer Blanquez, his affair was "known in the village, there are people who have testified before a notary".

DALI AND GALA

Born on May 11, 1904 in Figueras to a bourgeois family, Dali developed an interest in painting from an early age.

In 1922 he began studying at the Fine Arts Academy in Madrid, where, despite being expelled twice, he developed his first avant-garde artistic ideas in association with poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the filmmaker Luis Bunuel.

Soon he left for Paris to join the surrealist movement, giving the school his own personal twist and rocketing to fame with works such as "The Great Masturbator."

Returning to Catalonia after 12 years, he invited French poet Paul Eluard and his Russian wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova to Cadaques.

It was love at first sight between Dali and the woman to whom he gave the pet name Gala.

She became his muse and remained at his side for the rest of her life and died in 1982. The couple never had children.

"Dali loved his wife but he loved her without having sex, he was a voyeur I would say," Lidia, a resident of Figueras who says she met Dali when she was 13, told AFP TV.

"This is why the people of Figueras think it was very unlikely that he could have had a child," she added.