Dalí Museum

Reading this week:

  • Fire-Eaters by Mwelwa C. Musambachime

In a continuing trend of writing blog posts in the reverse order of which they happened, in the morning of the very same day that we visited the Imagine Museum we also visited the Dalí Museum! I had been to the Dalí Museum, a few years back when I was trying to get some peace and quiet in the midst of a Christmas visit to the fam, but my super amazing fiancée had never been and wanted to go. She is amazing and has excellent taste in museums. The Dalí Museum is a fun place and it was a lot of fun to take my mom.

In a three-for-three string of blog posts, the Dalí Museum was also founded by some rich people. They were friends and big collectors of Dalí’s work, and like you do when you can no longer fit your huge art collection comfortably into your living room and are also fantastically wealthy, you start a museum. These people were the Morses. Anyways it is the best museum about Dalí that I have ever seen. The museum has two exhibits. The second is their changing exhibit, which changes. The first is their collection of Dalí’s paintings, which is pretty large and arranged chronologically. The last time I visited the museum, alone, I accidentally went through backwards, so I started with Dalí’s monumental works and as I progressed they went from huge and fantastical to small and realistic. I mean a huge part of Dalí’s talent is that is pictures are so realistic which makes the situations those poor clocks find themselves in so jarring, but when he was a young artist training to be an old artist he was doing stuff like painting fish:

Still Life: Fish with Red Bowl, 1923

I liked this picture because at the time I was contemplating buying a painting of a fish, so I was thinking a lot about fish paintings (I also have a history with fish). I wound up buying a fish painting, which is not particularly related to this museum trip. The painting is from Sarah Sutphin, and I am extremely glad to have it because after looking at all this art in all these museums I really wanted an oil painting, and I had been drawn to some realistic still-lifes of seafood, and she paints a mean sardine. So now there is an oil painting of a sardine hanging in the kitchen, though as of this writing my super amazing fiancée has never eaten a sardine, which she finds incongruous with the presence of the painting. We will eat sardines soon, don’t worry.

Speaking of art buying, last time I was at the Dalí Museum I bought a print of The Hallucinogenic Toreador. This is a monumental painting which I liked because at the time I think I was reading Hemmingway and thinking about bullfights. So this painting which is gigantic in real life was living in miniature on our apartment walls. This time however we saw The Average Bureaucrat, and my super amazing fiancée commented it was appropriate for us because we are both average (and proud) bureaucrats ourselves. I didn’t manage to take a picture but I suggested we buy a print but she didn’t think we needed to but I did anyways so now we have two Dalí prints decorating our apartment (the second somewhat closer to life-sized than the first), which is a pretty good number of Dalí prints, no?

Mom (center)

While my super amazing fiancée and I were debating the merits of bureaucracy, my mom (a former bureaucrat of sorts herself) was wandering around admiring the art closely. She has had a print for many many years of the succinctly named Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln-Homage to Rothko (Second Version) (which is larger than our prints; I didn’t realize until this moment I great up in a Dalí household?) and was delighted to see the real version finally, though she noted she wasn’t as able to easily see Lincoln when his head was 15′ tall instead of only like 2′ tall. At the time we visited the museum also had this virtual reality exhibit thingy where you apparently got to explore Dalí’s paintings in virtual reality. We thought it was full because the sign said it was but mom went in anyways (showing her much more advanced bureaucratic instincts) and got to try it out and I think she had a lot of fun. She certainly found it interesting and it was the first time she had ever done virtual reality, so it was an educational moment.

Femme Couchée, 1926

Anyways I guess I should probably talk about Dalí? His stuff is good (hot take I know). I am deeply impressed, as I mentioned, with the realism with which he painted his fantastic landscapes. From the exhibits he seems like he might have been a bit of a bother to be around, always wanting to not be a part of whatever was going on (he dropped himself out of art school right before he graduated), but man the guy could do some work. The museum does an excellent job showing and contextualizing the progression of his work and is worth a visit. The space itself is really remarkable as well, with the building a quite the architectural comment. The one drawback of the Dalí Museum however is that it is all about Dalí, which is cool, but man sort of limits what you can put on? The second exhibit like I mentioned is a changing exhibit, and this time it was about dreams, which is a theme in Dalí’s work apparently. But the space is smaller than the first one and I gotta think the curators are working really hard to make it worthwhile.

The most interesting part of that exhibit for me this time was the fact most of the art they were displaying were just prints instead of the actual artwork. They had a sign up noting that “the loan of artworks between museums – a traditional necessity to share the cultural wealth of humanity – has become exceedingly difficult due to leaping costs for transport and insurance. As well, an intense introspection among arts institutions as to their identity and purpose has heightened the difficulty.” Sounds to me like there is some subtext there but at the very least it being more difficult for museums to loan artworks to one another seems to me like a dire situation. Somewhat caught up in the desire for more art restitution, sending say the Benin Bronzes back to Nigeria, is that in addition to that we should be doing a lot of work sending more art that way (and the other way too), so the whole world gets to see everyone’s art. If the British Museum wants to argue that the Bronzes are best in a “universal” museum, that means equally that we should send the Mona Lisa to Benin City as it does that we should send the Bronzes to London. But if you can’t ship art around these days anymore that jeopardizes that dream.

But while you contemplate that, if you are in St. Petersburg (the Florida kind), go to the Dalí Museum. It is a pretty pricey admission ticket honestly but the art is very nice, the building is beautiful, and you will be in a sunny clime.