When the Corsican collector Moisés Natali purchased, sight unseen, the entire portfolio of Currado Malaspina’s Maldoror drawings from the unscrupulously successful Rive Gauche art dealer Samassi Arsène, not a few eyebrows were raised. When Natali returned half the pieces as “unsuitable for the home of my virgin daughters,” a wave of skepticism engulfed the 5th arrondissement like a tropical monsoon.
The dubious virtue of the Natali girls notwithstanding, the drawings themselves were not free from controversy.
When the tainted works were returned to the market, an exhibition was held at the Palais de Cupidité’s sumptuous Hall of Divinities. The critics were divided but the public was enthralled. A record shattering seven hundred thousand visitors were swept up by the art and the accompanying succès de scandale. Gary Hoffmansthal of The Guardian called it a “a crass circus of low-brow hucksterism that would make even Damien Hirst soil his cottons”