View Full Version : 1/11/11-- The New Salvador Dali Museum

January 13th, 2011, 02:52 PM
Salvador Dali, The Maestro, was fond of an artistic sytle--Surrealism--which he practically OWNED. It's a unique 20th century literate dimension, characterized by an ever-changing, often baffling perspective and filled with surprises. Some of his works are pure photo-realism, some are simple landscapes and baskets of bread, some are satire. He did portraits, sculpture, jewelery, lobsters on telephones, Rolls-Royces with mermaids in the backseat and snails on the bonnet. He even did advertising and worked with Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney. Some of his paintings are 20-25 feet tall and nearly as wide. Some are spectacular and contain so much information in their detailed imagery that you can stand transfixed, staring at the work for 10 minutes-- and STILL not realize what you are seeing.

It was expected that a new museum --one holding the second-largest collection of Dali's work on the planet-- would, in some distinct fashion, reflect the artist's metaphoric mindset and provide a proper showcase for his remarkible art.
The architect, Yann Weymouth ( with HOK; he has also done the National Gallery East Wing in DC and worked closely with I. M. Pei on the Louvre redo) has succeeded on many levels.

The works were previously displayed a few blocks south at the old Museum, right on the St Petersburg waterfront. Since 1982 they were in a converted warehouse, a reasonable space but one that was too small for displaying the entire collection of 95 paintings at once-- and, subject to sudden obliteration if a serious storm comes along and the water rises.

The New Museum, about 1/2 mile north of the Old, is also on the city's waterfront, and Weymouth provided for storms. The main structure, 3 floors of it, is 18 inches of raw, reinforced concrete, a box, and the glass is 1 1/2 inches thick. Way above the entry, Dali's unique signature is cast into the concrete. The structure could be viewed by some as Brutalist, but it's not. It's almost--dare I say it?--surreal architecture, something otherworldly.
Most of the artwork is on the third floor-- 18 feet above tidal surge-- so the structure has a mass, but the details break it out of the mould.
Weymouth's Museum is a jewel, forthright in it's design as one approaches, then filled with a series of pleasing architectural surprises--serendipities-- that unfold as you walk through the building. It is truly a world-class structure, an inspired museum design.
You approach from landside. A planted plaza seperates the Museum from the Mahaffey Theatre, a performing arts center, and it has a Lincoln Center feel to it. Really.
The Museum entry is a through a horizontal notch and over a water grotto, an entry both cold and natural, slashed from a corner of the concrete box.
One enters, naturally, into the gift shop, but the space also holds some of Dali's works scattered throughout the shop floor. Art + Commerce.
Still, the gifts are interesting as hell.
Then you turn the corner into a light court--and the "wow factor" pops.

Remember the first time you went into the Guggenheim, how the foyer suddenly went to the sky and you could look straight up, through the spirals, and see daylight??? Well, Weymouth took that thematic touch, refined it to align with Dali's vision and he has soared with it. The roof and the east wall are draped--wrapped--in a styilized bubble he named The Glass Enigma, which is comprised of 1,062 green glass triangles, none the same dimensions. Another bubble pops out from the box's lower facade.

It is inspired by the geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller, who was one of Dali's favorite designers. It is said to represent a blob of water, collecting at the top and rolling down the front of the building. It is art in itself, and it works.
The Enigma flows from roof to ground, wrapping grandly around a corner. Inside, it allows the bountiful Florida sun to flood the forecourt and the gallery spaces above. At the top floor it becomes an observation gallery, looking down on a lot of rocks outside (quarried in my little hometown of Ocala !!!) which are designed to evoke the rocky shore of Dali's Spanish home. There's a planted maze to see, then the water beyond, with the bobbing sailboats along the shore.
At night, when it's all lit up, it stops traffic.
Inside, the bare concrete walls move inward, becoming an elliptical form as they go higher, and piercing the center of the room is a cast spiral staircase that soars to the top, wrapped around itself like the DNA helix as it spirals towards the Enigma above. It is stunning, original and fitting. It's a very interesting climb. (You could also take the elevator, but who would want to?).
There is a cafe, serving mostly Spanish-inspired food and wines, and one sits in sunshine enjoying tapas within the glassy womb-like undulations of the Enigma.
What a room!!!

The main display rooms are designed around the often gigantic scale of the Maestro's paintings, and there are different forms of multimedia--films running on the concrete walls, holograms, sculpture, etc that fill the spaces. His works, all completely displayed together for the first time ever, are remarkable, a subject best left to another time.

My daughter, whom I introduced to Dali when she was 10, has been planning to be at the Grand Opening with me for 2 years. She's a big fan-- we've been to the old museum a half-dozen times. We met there today to join in the parade, a movement from the old to the new. We took the New Princess along, walking with the parade the entire length. She touched a horse, she saw a Real Princess ( the daughter of Spain's King, here to cut the ribbon), she bounced a yellow baloon.
( She was 18 months old when we took her to the old museum, though if you ask her about it she'll claim to remember nothing. She's TWICE as old now.).

I got up at 5:30 AM and made the 2-hour drive to St. Pete in time for us to catch the parade, which went from the old museum to the new, about an 8-block distance. Ah, the parade. If anybody remembers the "freak parades" of the '70s, the 1/11/11 Dali parade would have rekindled fond memories. There were hundreds marching, most with Dali-themed costuming, including a guy with a snail on his head, lots of burning giraffes, a guy with no face on 10-foot stilts, a woman dressed in the rigging of a sailing ship; there was also a 30-foot loaf of bread, (one of Dali's leitmotifs) carried like a religious icon through the streets of St. Pete, and a lot of large baloons, another Dali theme. The streets were dripping with irony.

Unknown to me, my daughter-- who works at the adjacent Mahaffey Theatre--had already had a personal tour of the Museum a couple days before, and as we approached the door she handed me my Charter Membership card, a delayed Christmas gift that allows free entry, a slice or two from the loaf of bread and a gift shop discount. She's also become a member and already knew what to expect when we entered, so she delighted herself watching my responses to the place. My granddaughter, who had been on the tour with Mom a couple days earlier, kept grabbing my hand to drag me to yet another wonder that she had seen, eager to show it to her Poppa. She especially pointed out the Lobster Telephone and kept returning to the burning giraffe.

We climbed the staircase, toured the galleries, had wine within The Enigma. The New Princess got a souvenier, a spun-metal stylized ant (yet another Dali reoccuring theme), which she immediately buried in the sand by the maze, which is where ants belong, I guess.

In a single day I got to envelop myself in art, architecture and family. I saw the obvious civic pride that St. Petersburg must have, gaining a crown jewel in their Downtown, and I marched in a freak parade with a couple of my favorite people, on our way to an artistic climax .

It was a perfect day, one of the ten best ever.

January 13th, 2011, 03:48 PM
I was passing through Time Warner Center today and had a look at the large Dali exhibit happening there.

January 23rd, 2011, 11:32 AM
MOMA usually has several Dalis on display.

MOMA owns the famous "Persistence of Memory" ( the one where clocks look like melting cheese) and once loaned it to the Dali Museum in St Pete. In 2003, I think, that painting and Dali's later rendition--"The Disintegration of The Persistence of Memory" ( from the Dali Museum collection)-- were hung on the same wall for the first time ever, anywhere, even in Dali's studio. For Dali freaks it was like seeing the Beatles reunite or having a winning Lotto ticket for the second time.

I drove over 200 miles to see them both displayed.
I'd actually seen MOMA's painting when I was in NY, then shortly after I got back to Florida my kid and I went to the St Pete museum so I could do a fresh compare and contrast. Then, coincidentally, a few months later they were united in St Pete.