On view at the new Dali Museum
Published: Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.
Even with double the gallery space, the new Dalí Museum, which opened this week, doesn't have room to show everything in its collection of more than several thousand items that include art, books and personal papers.
The Dalí Museum
Where: 1 Dalí Blvd., on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront at the southern end of Bayshore Drive SE.
Admission: Adults, $21; seniors, military, police and firefighters, $19; children 13 to 18 and students over 18 with valid ID, $15; children 6 to 12, $7; and children 5 and younger, free. Admission is $10 after 5 p.m. Thursdays.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday
Docent tours are offered daily. Check at the admissions desk for times.
But it'll be able to show all of the best of it. And in doing so, it will demonstrate that Salvador Dalí, though usually labeled a surrealist artist, had a much broader scope during his long career.
The most important benefit from its size is that for the first time in the museum's history, all 96 paintings in the collection will be on view. The old museum building could display only about one-third of them.
They will be featured along with some drawings in the main, 9,000-square-foot gallery on the north side of the building.
The first painting visitors will see is "Daddy Longlegs of the Evening — Hope!" (1940), which was the first work by Dalí that A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, the museum's late founders, purchased in 1943.
The rest of the gallery is mostly arranged chronologically. Around the perimeter are the museum's largest paintings, including the seven known as the masterworks.
The southern gallery, which in the future will hold special exhibitions often not art by Dalí — will be filled with his work during the museum's first year, under the title "Dalí in Other Media." Its purpose is to illustrate Dalí's continuous experimentation and his prescience in recognizing cultural trends. On display will be his most famous sculptures and three-dimensional constructs, including the hologram with Alice Cooper and Lobster Telephone; print suites including Les Caprices, an homage to Francisco Goya's "Los Caprichos;" the famous photographic collaborations with Philippe Halsman; and two of his films, including the groundbreaking "Un Chien Andalou."
Here's a summary of some of those works, and the inspiration behind them:
"View of Cadaqués With Shadow of Mount Pani," 1917: This is the earliest painting in the museum's collection and its surface, when seen in person, is rough because it was done on a piece of burlap. Dalí was 13 when he painted it and it shows his precocious talent and eye for composition. The vantage point was one of his favorites, in the hills overlooking the seaside village where his family had a home.
"Portrait of My Dead Brother," 1963: This is a wrenching painting that attempts to memorialize Dalí's brother and exorcise him from the artist's psyche. His brother died when he was a toddler, nine months before Dalí was born. He had been named Salvador Dalí after his father. His grieving parents gave their new baby the same name, casting a shadow over the artist for the rest of his life. In this work, he attempts to reconcile his conflicting feelings in what is actually a dual portrait. The use of Benday dots for the portrait is an example of Dalí's love of optical illusions and illustrates the artist's intuitive trend-spotting in employing a pop art technique.
"Daddy Longlegs of the Evening — Hope!," 1940: This is perhaps the first painting Dalí completed after he came to the United States after the fall of Paris to the Nazis in June 1940. It's a rather forlorn work, with symbols of his despair over the war, such as the drooping female body over a dead tree and a cherub covering his eyes. But there is hope, too, as the title suggests. The spider on the face of Dalí's alter ego, the Great Masturbator, is a symbol of good luck, especially if seen in the evening. This work holds a place of honor as the first visitors will see in the new permanent collection gallery because it was the first Dalí painting purchased by A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, the museum's founders. An anecdote the couple enjoyed telling was that Dalí himself selected the frame and it was $600 more than the painting, for which they paid $1,200.
"Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln" (Homage to Rothko), 1976: The title conveys the most important information: Stand 20 meters away from it (it's positioned in the gallery for this long view) and, in one of Dalí's famous optical illusions, the portrait of Gala becomes one of President Lincoln. If you squint here, you'll probably be able to see the double portrait.
"Nature Morte Vivante" (Still Life Fast Moving), 1956: Probably more than any other, the painting interprets Dalí's fascination with mathematics and science. The traditional still life becomes a visual treatise on particle theory, suggesting its elements are in motion as the subatomic particles of which they're made constantly move and collide. The motion isn't random; it's in a spiral, which Dalí considered the most perfect form. The spiral motif is repeated architecturally throughout the building.
"The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus," 1958: Though Dalí put his all into conceiving this grand painting, the largest he had created at that time, it began as a commission by the collector Huntington Hartford, who had opened a gallery on Columbus Circle in New York, hence the specific subject. It's loaded with symbolism and the mysticism that the artist became more interested in as he moved away from his surrealist period.
"The Hallucinogenic Toreador," 1969-70: Dalí was a master of the double image, and this is one of his finest. A first look shows a curious assortment of images, including several statues of the Venus de Milo, a bull's head and flies, staged in a large outdoor arena. Look harder and, amazingly, the face of a toreador emerges. Its inspiration couldn't have been more pedestrian. Dalí bought a box of pencils that used the Venus as a logo. He looked at it and saw another face within the silhouette. The experience led to this great work.
"The Ecumenical Council," 1960: Dalí celebrates the glory of the Catholic faith, which he embraced passionately in later life, in this work. It commemorates the coronation of Pope John XXIII, who introduced reforms to the church with Vatican II. Dalí's wife and muse, Gala, plays a prominent role here as she does in many of his works, the representative of women he considered remarkable for their ability to inspire.
"Velázquez Painting the Infanta Margarita With the Lights and Shadows of His Own Glory," 1958: Dalí considered Diego Velázquez one of the greatest painters of all time. In this homage, he doesn't try to copy the earlier style or re-create Velázquez's most famous work, Las Meninas (1656), a portrait of the young Spanish princess Margarita, her court companions (including dwarfs) and her parents. Instead, he interprets atomic particle theory into a dramatic narrative in which the infanta is a mass of atoms rendered in paint.
"Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleicacid" (Homage to Crick and Watson), 1963: Dalí believed that art and science were inextricable companions in human creativity, and here he expresses his admiration for the two scientists who discovered the double helix, the DNA molecule containing the genetic code. The helix is a spiral, the form Dalí loved most in nature and used frequently in his art. The building's architecture pays tribute to the helix in its grand, spiraling staircase.
"The Basket of Bread," 1926: Dalí created "The Basket of Bread" when he was 22 years old. It's a virtuoso turn for one so young, and almost self-consciously academic. It is of a common thing, bread, sliced and partly eaten. Dalí would say much later that it was one of his oldest fetishistic themes. He did use bread in several other major paintings in which the Eucharistic associations are more pronounced. But probably, in his youth, he mostly wanted to show his mastery of a subject and style.
"Eggs on the Plate Without the Plate," 1932: This was painted during the peak of Dalí's immersion in surrealism. Dalí said the fried eggs were his first memory, a vision he had in utero. True or imagined, the image of the eggs has many associations, most obviously with conception and birth. At the top left is a small window with a mother and child.
"Slave Market With the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire," 1940: This is one of the finest examples of Dalí's genius for multitasking. The painting serves a dual purpose, to make a serious intellectual point and make a commanding visual statement. To underscore its dual purpose, he uses a double image that is near perfect. In the center, women stand in a stone archway. You can see they also form a portrait of Voltaire, the 18th century philosopher whose rationalism Dalí felt enslaved creativity. His savior is his wife Gala, painted in the foreground.
"Lobster Telephone," 1938: The genesis for this work was classic Dalí inspiration. During a lobster dinner with friends, shells were tossed aside and one landed on a telephone. You can see where that led Dalí. It was created as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh, who famously cut off his earlobe. Dali envisioned a similar fate for someone answering a phone with a live lobster attached. This is one of only 10 that Dalí made. And the phone, by the way, really worked.
"The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory," 1952-54: Dalí revisits his famous melting watches in this later work and draws on his new interest in scientific theory in expanding the imagery. In the earlier painting, the main theme seems to be the fluidity of time; here, he explores the dissolution of it as a potential portal to chaos. Note, though, that amid the destructive missiles are both an orderly grid and the sense of permanence in the solid rocks in the distance.
"The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition," 1934: This was a pivotal year for Dalí. He and his muse, Gala, were married and the artist also had a splashy New York debut of his art. In "Weaning," Dalí's nanny is shown mending a fish net on the Catalonian beaches of his childhood. A part of her has been cut out in the shape of a nightstand which sits nearby. It represents the fight for independence by children as they leave infancy and begin establishing their own ego, of course, but it perhaps more deeply represents Dalí's professional independence from the highly structured surrealist movement, from which he was formally expelled in 1934.
"Un Chien Andalou," 1929: This is a 16-minute film, one of the best known of the surrealist movement, that will be looped continuously on the gallery wall. Dalí and Luis Buñuel collaborated on "Un Chien Andalou" (translated as "The Andalusian Dog," the title has no apparent meaning) and even today its narrative is considered cryptic and full of mysterious symbols.