A few weeks back, my new ladyfriend Diana and I drove over to Tampa to visit my big brother Peter and his wife Ciria in their new retirement home. A lovely home it was – and in sharp contrast to my home (most days), speckless, tidy and immaculately organized. He’s a little bit country and I’m a little bit rock ‘n roll but one thing we do have in common is a love for art. And knowing what a big art museum nerd I am, he invited us to check out the Dalí Museum in nearby St. Petersburg.
The Dalí Museum celebrates the life and work of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and features works from the artist’s entire career. The collection includes over 2,400 works from every moment and in every medium of his artistic activity, including oil paintings, original drawings, book illustrations, artists’ books, prints, sculpture, photos, manuscripts and an extensive archive of documents. It houses one of the most acclaimed collections of a single modern artist in the world.
Who was Salvador Dalí, you ask? Really? Oh, just one of the most famous and influential artists of the twentieth century. That’s all. Born in Figueras, Spain on May 11, 1904, Dalí (with a little help from self-induced hallucinatory states) became the world’s best-known Surrealist artist. His eccentric and ostentatious behavior, public declarations of his genius, and upturned waxed mustache became icons of his brand.
He depicted a dreamworld in which commonplace objects are juxtaposed, deformed, or otherwise metamorphosed in a bizarre and irrational fashion. Dalí portrayed those objects in meticulous, almost painfully realistic detail and usually placed them within bleak sunlit landscapes that were reminiscent of his Catalonian homeland. He died on January 23, 1989 in Figueras.
But let’s get back to the museum that bears his name, yes?
Founded with the works collected by American businessman and philanthropist Albert Reynolds Morse and his wife Eleanor Morse (who bought their first Dalí painting, “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening, Hope!” in 1943), the Museum has made significant additions to its collection over the years, celebrating the life and art of one of the most influential and innovative artists in history.
The Morses first displayed their Dalí paintings in their home, and by the mid-1970s decided to donate their entire collection. The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida opened in 1982. The distinguished new building, which opened on January 11, 2011, was designed by architect Yann Weymouth of the global design, architecture, engineering firm HOK.
The new building combines the rational with the fantastical: a simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma”. The Enigma, which is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a twenty-first century homage to the dome that adorns Dalí’s museum in Spain. Inside, the Museum houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dalí’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.
You can view eight Dalí masterworks in the Museum’s permanent collection using augmented reality (AR) technology to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning behind their complex imagery. To see these works through the lens of AR, you can download the free Dalí Museum App from the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android). With the app, visitors see the paintings come to life, highlighting and exploring their complexities. It’s pretty dang cool (here’s an example of what it looks like).
You can even learn how to draw the same way Dalí drew by referring to the instructional video screens (watch Diana give it a go)
To be honest with you, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Salvador Dalí (or surreal art for that matter) but spending several hours perusing his work over several decades gave me a newfound admiration for the flamboyant Spanish artist. As for the rest of the group (all first-timers to the museum), they dug it too. Really dug it.
The Dalí Museum is well worth a visit and one of the most unique art museums I’ve ever visited (and I’ve been to a few!). Tickets start at $29/adult with discounted prices for seniors, teens, and students. Children under five are free. Tell them Dan Perez sent you to receive a free quizzical look.