Walter Maibaum discusses Salvador Dali and hidden Edgar Degas sculptures
Salvador Dali told Maibaum,
“The only difference between me and the other Surrealists is, I am a Surrealist!”
Pinpointing the 50-year art world career of Walter Maibaum is not easy. After begin-ning his profession in 1968 as a dealer in Old Master works on paper (Rembrandt, Dü-rer, etc.) he became director of an international atelier and was actively sought as a lecturer on various art world subjects. He also spoke and moderated panels for World Art Market Conferences and was tapped by the federal government as an expert witness on art fraud. During this period he became a noted authority on sculpture. Willem de Kooning and Henry Moore were among the artists who consulted with him on casting materials, techniques and foundry practices. His artist friends included Salvador Dali, who once told Maibaum, “The only difference between me and the other surrealists is, I am a Surrealist!”
Continuing with this specialty today, he quietly maintains a private dealership in New York for select clients. While maintaining a low profile in that regard, he is widely known internationally for uncovering 74 previously unknown sculptures in plaster by the French Impressionist master, Edgar Degas (1843-1917). I interviewed Maibaum about this major discovery.
Michael Reiss: Tell me about the 74 plaster sculptures you found. When were the plasters made?
Walter Maibaum: Based on the physical and scientific evidence along with a decade of research clearly points to the conclusion, the great majority of the plasters were made either during Degas’ lifetime or shortly after he died in 1917.
MR: So the plasters were hidden for decades. Where did you find them?
WM: A storage in the Valsuani Foundry in Chevreuse, France, about 30 miles outside of Paris. After many years of research and gathering a body of evidence it led to my be-lief that the plasters were made from Degas’ original wax and clay sculptures. In 2007 the research was provided to the living heirs of Edgar Degas, known as the Succession Degas, they provided letters of authentication and then mandated that bronzes be cast from the plasters.
MR: Why did the Succession Degas mandate that bronzes be cast from plasters?
WM: The Succession Degas had the responsibility to protect and enhance the legacy of the artist. Casting allowed for the bronzes to be exhibited worldwide, so that the general public could view and enjoy them. Ten museums have now held exhibitions of the bronzes cast from the plasters. They range from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. More exhibitions are planned.
MR: Then if the Little Dancer plaster you found might be worth twice as much as the bronze that sold for $25 million and if the other 73 plasters might each be worth an average of one million or more, would it be fair to say that your discovery could easily be worth more than $100 million?
WM: As the Chairman of one of the two major auction houses once said, “Beauty is in the eye of the buyer!”
MR: Since you are being coy about the values and not answering the question directly I must ask, are the Degas plasters for sale, or for that matter are the bronzes for sale?
WM: Let’s leave it at this. If someone has interest and wants to learn more about this subject please direct them to the website: DegasSculptureProject.org
MR: How will history record the discovery of the plasters and the museum exhibitions of the bronzes?
WM: No doubt the discovery of the plasters and the bronze exhibitions will be written about in his-tory books and museum catalogues for decades to come. And keep in mind the exhibitions will also continue worldwide, all of which will further enhance the international reputation and legacy of the great French Impressionist master, Edgar Degas.
For additional information go to www.DegasSculptureProject.org