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The Narcotic History Of A Salvador Dalí Painting

“The Dance” will not definitely feature among the masterly creations of the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí. But it’s probably the one with the most riveting history in keeping with the flamboyant character of its creator. A first version, which hung in New York’s Ziegfeld Theater was later lost in the fire that destroyed the home of the theater owner, Billy Rose. Dalí made a second copy for Billy, who sold it. An owner later, it ended up in the home of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug don, whose cocaine empire made him one of the world's richest men. The subsequent history of the painting, sometimes known as “Rock ’n’ Roll,” is recounted in a new Spanish book by Escobar’s wife, Victoria Eugenia Henao. In 'Pablo Escobar: My Life and My Prison' she narrates how it became a talisman of sorts for the Escobar family. The man who bought the Dalí from Rose sold it at auction at Sotheby’s in New York in 1985. It isn’t clear whether she was the purchaser who paid about 3.44 crore, adjusted for inflation, or if she bought it subsequently. In her 512-page book, she suggests that art became something of a refuge for her, a gentle pursuit in a life often enveloped by violence and fear. She says she was largely unaware of the extent of Escobar’s crimes. The Escobars’ apartment was in El Poblado, a neighborhood of Medellín. In 1988 a car bomb targeting the family ripped through the building. They fled. Days later her sister returned to the building, found the painting unscathed and moved it to her sister’s home in another neighborhood. But that house also came under attack from the vigilante group Los Pepes, which hated her husband. The house was set on fire in 1993, and Victoria said she initially assumed the painting had been destroyed. But the arsonists had walked off with the Dalí painting, which she learned after the death of her husband. Afterwards, she received a message from an intermediary saying they were willing to return the painting to Victoria. But she declined, she said, because she remembered something her husband had told her to assuage any potentially dangerous situations. “The day I die,” she recalls Escobar telling her, “give them what you have left so they do not kill you and our children.” Victoria and her family left Colombia safely, eventually settling in Argentina. “The last thing I knew about ‘The Dance of Rock and Roll’ was that Carlos called several dealers in Bogotá and asked them for help in selling the work to an international collector,” she writes.