Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Frenzy Of Strange (New Dali Exhibit Opens At The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg)

Salvador Dali, Nude in the Water. AP Photo/Salvador Dali Museum.

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Salvador Dali, Nude in the Water,  1925, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

By: Tamara Lush, Associated Press


    In the mid-1920s, a young Salvador Dali was searching for his style. He painted a startlingly lifelike basket of bread in a typical Renaissance form. He dabbled in cubism and painted in abstract black, white and gray. He also painted a scene in 1925 that he called "Desnudo en el Agua" (Nude in the Water), which gives an inkling of the surrealist genius to come. The painting is a close-up of a woman's shapely buttocks, and the unique perspective reveals that Dali was looking at subjects and paintings in a whole new way as a young artist.

    "He's not doing an academic perspective," wryly notes Hank Hine, the director of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. That subtly erotic work, along with 11 others, is on display at the Florida museum until March 31, 2013 in a show called "The Royal Inheritance: Dalí Works From the Spanish National Collection." The paintings, which span from 1918 to 1983, have never before been exhibited the United States. The works are on loan from the National Collection of Modern Art in Spain. It's an exhibit that merges the vast permanent collection housed in St. Petersburg — which was amassed by one couple from Cleveland who befriended the artist — with works owned by the Spanish Kingdom, which inherited Dali's estate after he died in 1989. 


Salvador Dali, "A Propos of the 'Treatise on Cubic Form' by Juan de Herrera, 1960, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

    For a visitor to the museum in St. Petersburg, it means a well-rounded and fun romp through Dali's vast body of work. Hine said the Florida museum was able to acquire the Spanish loans in exchange for collaborating on another Dali exhibition, one at the Centre Pompidou in Paris on Nov. 21. The show will also be shown in Madrid starting April 23, 2013. "The world has a huge appetite for Dali," said Hine. "He's lastingly exciting." That appetite for his surrealist paintings, and the desire to see the striking new museum, has sparked an arts renaissance in St. Petersburg. The museum moved into a $36 million glass-and-concrete building along the city's waterfront on January 11, 2011, and has welcomed an average of 1,000 people a day since opening. The museum's signature detail is a wave of glass paneling that undulates around the building — a feature that was designed by architect Yann Weymouth, who had a hand in creating the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. There's also a helix-like concrete staircase that stretches from the ticket counter to the third floor, and a cafe that serves smooth glasses of Spanish wine and traditional olives.

Inside the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

    The biggest visitor demographic, said Hine, is the 18-30 age group — which is interesting considering that St. Petersburg has been long known as a retirement haven. And 25 percent of the Dali's visitors have never been to a museum before, he said. "They don't feel like they have to know anything about art to come here," said Hine. "Dali's works are whimsical, and charming." Yet even without knowing much about art, visitors can appreciate Dali's genius, talent and, some would say, madness. In the new exhibit, one of Dali's paintings from late in his career — 1983's "Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking a Cello" — is a frenzy of strange.

Salvador Dali, Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking a Cello, 1983, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

    Note:   This is unexpected and kind of exciting.  I didn't know about the new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, a place I hope (fingers crossed) to visit soon. (It's a long, non-art-related story.)  Salvador Dali is a fascinating and often frustrating subject.  It's difficult to say whether he yields more or less over time; I'm inclined to say more.  You simply need to find your point of entry, feel your way around, observe carefully, index your judgements, and keep an open mind.  Because that's thirsty work, I'm grateful that the museum provides "smooth glasses of Spanish wine and traditional olives." I hope this includes a good selection of cooled fino sherries.

Outside the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

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