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David Alvey – Guest Contributor
Aug 27 2019
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If you travel to St. Pete, Florida make sure to explore The Dalí Museum, home to the largest collection of the Surrealist artist’s works outside of Europe.

Spanish artist Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, (1904 – 1989) was one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, and arguably the most influential in the Surrealist movement. Salvador Dalí masterfully layered his artwork with deep symbolism and personal mythology. In keeping with the artist’s ethos, The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida pushes the boundaries and expands the viewer’s perspective. 

Located on the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg, the Dalí Museum is home to the largest collection of Dalí's works outside Europe. But it also features works by other artists, which either influenced Dalí or were influenced by him. In all, the museum houses more than 2,000 works of art in 20,000 square feet of gallery space. 

The surrealism-inspired Dalí Museum building opened in 2011, and was named one of the “Top 10 Buildings You Have to See Before You Die” by AOL Travel. Inside and out, the building is a work of art. A simple rectangle with 18-inch thick hurricane-proof walls, out of which erupts a large geodesic glass bubble known as “The Enigma.” Made of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass, The Enigma stands 75 feet at its tallest point. It is a 21st Century homage to the dome that adorns Dalí’s museum in his hometown of Figueres, Spain. 

Outside the front entrance to the museum, the Grotto features a natural rock cornerstone that supports the edge of the building. Plants that receive nutrients from the thick, humid air and the tropical rain grow on the north face of the huge stone. At waist level, there is a spigot. Place your hand under it, and out pours water from the Fountain of Youth. Nearby a plaque states: “Under this ground are pooled the legendary waters of St. Petersburg’s Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon searched for these waters in the 16th century as the Old World looked to the New World for replenishment. Inspired by this legend, St. Petersburg’s great benefactor, Edwin H. Tomlinson, tapped into this sulfurous spring in 1900.”

Immediately upon entering The Dalí Museum, visitors encounter a contemporary homage to Dalí’s “Rainy Taxi.” The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum collaborated with local artists in 2010 to create the "Rainy Rolls," featuring a 1933 Rolls Royce Sedanca DeVille, decorated with seaweed and snails. Inside, a mannequin behind the wheel is wearing a brass diving helmet. In the passenger compartment, water continually drips on a mermaid mannequin.

In 1938, Dalí shocked visitors to the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris with his three-dimensional artwork "Rainy Taxi," subtitled “Mannequin Rotting in a Taxi-Cab.” Created by Dalí with help from fellow artists Marcel Duchamp and Wolfgang Paalen, the piece consisted of an automobile with two mannequins insideThe chauffer had a shark’s head. Due to concealed plumbing inside, it rained on a female mannequin inside the passenger compartment. Live snails crawled around inside the car.  

It’s fitting that this modern homage greets visitors in the mueum’s gift shop, surrounded by tokens of Dalí’s works reprinted on everything from melting clocks to key fobs. 

At its center, The Dalí Museum houses another unique architectural feature – a helical staircase – recalling Dalí’s obsession with spirals and his fascination with the double helical shape of the DNA molecule. 

Take the elevator or the winding staircase up to the third floor galleries to explore Dalí’s transformation from a budding young artist influenced by Europe’s Impressionists to a mature artist with a unique vision that would forever change the Art world. 

The Dalí Museum is home to an unparalleled collection of more than 2,400 Salvador Dalí works, including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings as well as more than 2,100 prints, photographs, posters, textiles, sculptures and objets d’art.

Early works in the Permanent Collection include the 1924 “Bouquet (L’Important c’est la rose) and 1927 “Apparatus and Hand.”

Dalí and Gala fled Europe for the safety of America as the Germans advanced on Paris during World War II. In 1940, the first painting Dalí created in exile was “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening – Hope.” It was also the first Dalí work purchased by Eleanor and Reynolds Morse, the founders of The Dalí Museum. The painting is part of the Museum’s Permanent Collection, along with iconic works such as the “Lobster Telephone,” and his final masterwork “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at 20 Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,” painted in 1975.

The Museum utilizes innovative technology to engage visitors in exploring Dalí’s popular Masterworks (paintings exceeding five feet in height or width and painted over a period of a year or more.) Masterworks are both monumental in scale and critical Dalí paintings. Visual Magic: Dalí’s Masterworks in Augmented Reality showcases the Museum’s eight Masterworks, the highest concentration of Dalí Masterworks of any institution in the world.  Viewing each Masterwork through The Dalí Museum app on a mobile device, visitors see the paintings come to life, highlighting and exploring their complexities. 

Step outside to relax and reflect on your experience in The Dalí Museum’s Avant-garden, overlooking Tampa Bay. The Mathematical Garden explores Dalí’s fascination with the relationship between math and nature. A labyrinth in the southeast corner invites solace and meditation. Write your hopes and visions on a scrap of paper and tie it to the Wish Tree. Stroll among several of Dalí’s larger sculptures, including his sweeping Dalí’s Moustache. There’s a spot at the center where you can take your photo as if you’re sporting his famous moustache. 

The Gardens are the perfect balance between order and whimsy. And a fitting conclusion to a mind altering visit to the institution that honors Salvador Dalí’s imagination and vision.

Dalí is famously remembered for his quote, “I believe in general death, but in the death of Dalí - absolutely not. I believe in my death becoming almost impossible.” 

While Salvador Dalí died in 1989 at the age of 84, and is buried in a crypt under the Teatro-Museo Dalí’s geodesic dome in Spain, he is immortalized via Dalí Lives, a groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence experience exclusively at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. Dalí Lives opened May 11, 2019 on what would have been Salvador Dalí’s 115th birthday. Dalí Lives allows visitors to interact with a life-like Dalí on a series of screens throughout the Museum. Dalí might even offer to take your photo before you leave the museum. https://thedali.org/exhibit/dali-lives/

More info about the Dalí Museum, including upcoming exhibitions, is available at thedali.org