The new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, was intentionally designed to reflect the mind of Dali.
A walk up the spiral staircase isn’t just a means to get from one floor to another. It was created to emphasize Dali’s obsession with the double helical shape of the DNA molecule. To him, the very basis of life would prove to be spiral. His art would reflect this principal. Note how the concrete spiral continues upward beyond the stairs representing Dali’s thoughts on infinity.
Once on the third floor, you are now in an area that erupts into a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “Enigma” named after a 1929 Dali painting. Made up of 1,062 triangular glass panels it opens the museum to the bay and sky while forming an atrium roof that draws in natural daylight. This is the first use of this type of free-form geodesic geometry in the United States and no two glass panels are alike. Amazing.
It’s a photographer’s play house. Angles. Shadows. Shapes.
Looking out at the beautiful bay is the Mathematical Garden which allows students and visitors to experience the relationship between math and nature. Also, there is a labyrinth or maze in the southeast corner which invites exploration.
The building itself is known as the right-angled Euclidean “treasure box” because of Dali’s fixation with geometry. The architects also had their own requirements. Build a museum that would withstand a category 5 hurricane, hence the thick concrete walls and industrial shape look from the exterior.
Internationally recognized architect Yann Weymouth, who also served as chief of design for I.M. Pei for both the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and for the Grand Louvre in Paris was responsible for this fantastical and surrealistic design for the HOK architect firm.
The gift shop is a destination in itself. The Rainy Day Taxi is a Rolls Royce with a diver behind the wheel as he is covered with water. One can’t help but notice the praying mantis and colorful Dali umbrellas suspended from the ceiling.
This museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s art outside of Spain.
We planned this trip in December to coincide with the special Picasso exhibit entitled, Two Legends Side by Side.
Even though the work by these two artists was thematically grouped, Picasso’s art was dwarfed by the magnitude of the Dali collection. However, the self-guided audio tour provided much detail into the mind and art of these two unique men. We weren’t able to take photos in the combined gallery, but were able to in the main Dali gallery.
Docent-led tours are educational and entertaining. This woman was decorated for the part.
I know very little of Dali’s background, but I learned that he incorporated Euclid’s math into some of his art. Known as the Golden Ratio or what photographers call the rule of thirds, he found this pleasing in art and represented the natural world, like the grouping of seeds in the common sunflower, an ordered and methodical arrangement which he felt is very appealing to our human eyes. The Sacrament of the Last Supper hanging in our National Gallery is a good example of mathematical structure.
Dali, one of the most famous Surrealist artists, was known for his wild art and public personality to match. He once said, “It is not necessary of the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious, just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself.”
The Surrealist art movement opened the doors to a style of art that the world had never before seen. Odd techniques were used to paint and interpret images of the subconscious and the dream world to bring metaphor and meaning to their work.
During the 1930’s his style of surrealism is depicted in:
Three Young Surrealist Women Holding in Their Arm the Skins of an Orchestra
Dali and his wife Gala fled war-torn Europe and lived in the US from 1940-1948. It was during this period that he no longer considered himself a surrealist. Instead, he turned to classical art and realism. His oil on canvas, Eucharistic Still Life painted in 1952 shows his interest in the Renaissance. This piece I could understand.
In 1931, he painted his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory which illustrates melting watches. However between 1952 and 1954 he painted The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. He said he was inspired one hot day while working in his studio when he noticed some runny Camembert cheese.
It is not clear why these melting watches are so startling and memorable, but they do suggest several powerful associations. According to art analysts, they illustrate how time can be fluid, as in a dream. But a more essential and threatening association concerns our dependence upon clocks. The world runs by the clock – scheduling events is essential for life to function normally. If clocks melt, time becomes meaningless, and there is no way to control activities, leading to chaos.
Reacting to the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Dali began to focus on religious themes. In the early 1950’s he referred to his work as the principles of Nuclear Mysticism. He wanted to reanimate his art with spirituality as can be seen in the following. But, of course, he drew himself into the picture.
One of a number of large paintings Dali completed in this era was The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus which stands a massive 14 feet tall by 9 feet wide. The painting was commissioned by Huntington Hartford, an American businessman, who was heir to the A&P Supermarket, for the opening of his museum, Gallery of Modern Art, in New York. The museum was located on Columbus circle, hence the inspiration for the subject of the painting. As a devout Roman Catholic, Dali portrayed Columbus as the Christian savior, bringing the true church and salvation to the new world.
In the 1960’s Dali experimented with Pop and Op Art, as well as Abstract Expressionism, which eventually led him to creating holographs during the 1970’s.
Can you make out Abraham Lincoln’s profile in the following?
We are so glad we visited this museum which is located only a couple of hours away from us, making return trips easy to do in one day. It is on Florida’s Top Attraction’s list and I can see why.
“Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.” ~ Salvador Dali
1904 – 1989